Tory election candidate suspended over antisemitism allegations

Leeds North East candidate Amjad Bashir apologised for the comments about British Jews who visited Israel

Jon Stone
Wednesday 20 November 2019 13:32 GMT
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Now a Tory: Former Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir
Now a Tory: Former Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir (PA)

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The Conservatives have suspended one of their general election candidates over allegations that he made antisemitic comments

Amjad Bashir, the Tory candidate in Leeds North East, had said British Jews who visited Israel turned into "brainwashed" extremists, attracting criticism from Jewish community groups.

The party confirmed on Wednesday it has withdrawn election support from the candidate and suspended him from the party – though he will still appear on the ballot paper as a Conservative as the deadline has passed to remove him.

Leeds North East is a relatively safe Labour seat and Mr Bashir stood little realistic chance of winning.

Mr Bashar apologised for the comments, which he made in a speech to the European parliament while he was a Ukip MEP in 2014.

“Young men are going over from England where I come from – people of the Jewish faith who my grandchildren have grown up with as decent young men," he had said.

“But have come back as extremists – as people that are brainwashed. They will not listen to reason. There is something very peculiar and wrong going on in Israel.”

Marie va der Zyl, the president of the Board of deputies of British Jews, had said the body was "extremely concerned at the languages used by" Mr Bashir, describing his views as "repellent" and calling on the party to consider his suitability.

After he was nominated as a Tory candidate, Mr Bashar told the Jewish Chronicle: “I deeply regret the comments I made around brainwashing – this was borne from a personal experience but it was completely wrong and I apologise unreservedly for it."

He added that "the tone I took has caused alarm and distress within the Jewish community, for which I apologise".

Fabian Hamilton, Labour's candidate for the seat, said "Anybody that holds such offensive views is not fit to hold public office, whatever party they represent. Amjad Bashir has insulted the entire Jewish community in North East Leeds with his clearly antisemitic remarks and I share the community’s anger. I am absolutely appalled."

Earlier this month Labour barred former MP Chris Williamson from standing again after an inquiry into comments he made downplaying antisemitism in the party.

A Conservative spokesman said: “Mr Bashir has been suspended from the party pending investigation and election support has been withdrawn.”

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