Calderdale leader resists action calls over Cabinet member’s protest rally group role

Calderdale Council’s leader is resisting calls for action to be taken over a Cabinet member’s involvement in a group which organised a protest rally last Sunday (August 22).

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 5:00 pm
Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift and Coun Jenny Lynn

The rally, organised by Halifax Friends of Palestine and held at Savile Park Moor, Halifax, hit the headlines when Halifax Labour MP Holly Lynch, who was due to be one of the speakers, announced she would not be appearing.

Ms Lynch said: “Upon seeing the speaker list for Sunday’s Rally for Palestine, I have been very clear that I will not share a platform with one of the speakers and so will not be attending.”

She did not say which of the other speakers – Yvonne Ridley, Adie Mormech, and Oldham Peace and Justice Campaign – her remark referred to or the reason and has been asked for further comment but not yet responded.

But the involvement as Chair of Halifax Friends of Palestine of Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park), who is council Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities and attended the rally, has prompted concerns voiced by opposition politicians.

Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Baker (Warley), his deputy Coun Ashley Evans (Warley), Conservative group leader Steven Leigh (Ryburn) and former councillor and Ovenden ward Conservative candidate in May’s local elections Andrew Tagg have all expressed concern.

Coun Baker, Coun Leigh and Mr Tagg have all written to Labour group leader, and Leader of Calderdale Council, Coun Tim Swift (Town) questioning Coun Lynn’s suitability for her Cabinet role.

Coun Baker wrote in his email to Coun Swift: “Last year the whole council agreed to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

“Some of the views expressed by speakers at this event would clearly be seen as antisemitism under this definition.

“We were pleased to see Holly did not share a platform with them, but it’s not acceptable that a Labour councillor and cabinet member was involved in organising this,” he said.

Mr Tagg said he believed being involved in the rally and being Cabnet member for Communities were roles that were incompatible.

Coun Leigh expressed agreement with concerns expressed by Mr Tagg and Coun Baker and called for Coun Lynn to stand down from her Cabinet position.

But Coun Swift said Coun Lynn had a proven record of working with all parts of Calderdale’s community.

“Calderdale has a proud history of welcoming and supporting people from all over the world who have faced conflict and devastation.

“I am proud of Labour’s work in making our district a valley of sanctuary, with a strong network of organisations working together to create a friendly, inclusive borough for everyone.

“Coun Lynn has a long track record of working for equality and cohesion in Calderdale, both as a community activist and a councillor, and has a proven record of working in harmony with people of all faiths and none,” he said.

Coun Lynn said her roles in the group and on the Cabinet were not incompatible, and Halifax Friends of Palestine has some Jewish members.

“There is nothing incompatible about my role as chair of a community-based organisation – Halifax Friends of Palestine – and my role in supporting all our communities, and I will stand on my record on that.

“There is nothing anti-semitic about standing up for the rights of Palestinian people,” she said.