Blackpool councillor 'devastated' after suspension over allegations of anti-Semitism

A Blackpool councillor has been suspended from the Labour party following an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 29th July 2022, 11:20 am

Coun David Owen, who is chairman of the planning committee, has been suspended for 18 months until December 2023 but is still a member of the Labour group on Blackpool Council.

The sanction was handed out by the Labour Party following an inquiry into eight postings on Facebook made by Coun Owen between September 2016 and July 2020.

He is the third Labour councillor to be suspended by the party during its current four year term in power at Blackpool Council.

Coun David Owen at Blackpool Town Hall

Coun Owen has apologised for his comments and sharing of articles on Facebook, which related to views of relations between Israel and Palestine, and is appealing against his suspension.

In a statement he said: "I have tried to remove all my posts which cause offence.

"I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has read any or all of them and, particularly, I express my sincere regrets to Jewish people as individuals and collectively whom I have wronged through my reckless actions."

Coun Owen said he accepted his comments constituted anti-Semitism under Labour's definitions, but said the rules "almost shut down free speech" when addressing relations between Israel and Palestine.

He said he was appealing his suspension because he felt the penalty "is disproportionate".

Coun Owen added: "I joined the Labour Party in January 1961, fought for three parliamentary constituencies and have been a member of the council for more than 40 years.

"So I'm thoroughly devastated by this. I am not an anti-Semite though I have transgressed the definition of what that is in the Labour Party."

Coun Owen, who is vice chairman of the council's Labour group, added: "I have had nothing but messages of support from within the Labour group and members of the party."

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams did not respond to requests for a comment.

Coun Owen's suspension follows the suspension of former council leader Coun Simon Blackburn in June 2020.

An investigation into undisclosed allegations was dropped in July 2021 when he left the party voluntarily.

Former deputy leader Coun Graham Cain was expelled from the party in summer 2020 following an investigation into complaints about an alleged improper post he shared on Facebook.