Liberal Democrats councillors walked out of a council vote last week (Thursday, July 18) after Wokingham’s Mayor instructed members to skip a debate about anti-Semitism.

Conservative councillor Keith Baker had brought a motion to Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) asking his colleagues to agree the council ‘abhors’ anti-Semitism following reports the Reading Labour Party had cancelled training sessions on the issue.

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Councillors were not allowed to debate the motion, however, and members went straight to a vote as the Mayor ruled there was not enough time to include a discussion before the meeting closed at 11pm.

This prompted the Liberal Democrats councillors to walk out as they were unhappy with the lack of debate.

After the meeting, Lib Dem councillor Clive Jones told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “There was five minutes or less (left of the meeting) of pretty important debate.

“But to just have one speech from the proposer who was putting forward the motion was completely wrong.

“We wanted to broaden the issue.”

A number of audience members also walked out from the public gallery, with one shouting at councillors: “This isn’t democracy”.

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Cllr Jones also told the LDRS he thought there was ‘without a doubt’ an issue with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, but added a suggestion there was also a problem with Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

The motion was proposed and seconded by Cllr Baker, but before the Conservative member could make his speech, Labour councillor Andy Croy attempted to submit an amendment to the motion.

Lib Dem Cllr Clive Jones suggested his group would have supported Cllr Croy’s amendment, which would have called for the council to note the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and to include other hate crimes, such as Islamophobia, homphobia and transphobia in the motion.

But Mayor Bill Soane told Cllr Croy the proposer had five minutes to accompany his motion with a speech.

Cllr Baker said: “Since this motion was published, I have been the victim of abuse on social media and a newspaper website. I have been called the C-word, ”a total tit” and accused of racism.

“On Facebook my motion has been called a ‘vile disgusting political suggestion by a local politician’ from a well-known Labour activist.”

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He continued: “If this is what these activists throw at me because of this motion I shudder to imagine what is thrown at the Jewish community and others who do not ‘fit’ into their ‘world’.

Cllr Croy hit back at Cllr Baker after the latter concluded his speech with a comment from a former Labour activist who suggested he might ‘miss this opportunity’ to support the motion.

The Labour councillor said: “You have a well-intentioned motion. Our amendment would have made it much, much stronger in its opposition to anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism has been tacked on to the back of yours – we would have extended it much wider to include other hate crimes, so please don’t presume to tell me what I think about anti-Semitism or racism.”

Councillors voted on the motion despite the Lib Dems’ walkout, with all Conservative, Labour and Independent members present voting in favour.

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