By Mike Phipps
The Conservative deputy mayor of Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council has been forced to apologise to a Jewish Labour election candidate she likened to Hitler.
Cllr Sandra Parnell wrote on her Facebook page that Labour’s Dr Dan Ozarow, was ‘the worst anti-Semite’ during February’s Borehamwood Kenilworth by-election campaign when he stood as a local candidate.
The apology followed a letter from leading libel lawyers Carter Ruck who were acting for Dan, in which Parnell was warned that the post was untrue and highly defamatory. As part of the settlement agreement, Parnell agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to The Holocaust Education Trust.
Despite Parnell’s Facebook profile being clearing named ‘Cllr Sandra Parnell’ and describing herself as “leader of Elstree & Borehamwood Town Council”, the Town Council has refused to distance itself from her comments, claiming that they were made in an “individual capacity”.
The Labour Group’s Town Council Leader and former Mayor, Cllr Richard Butler responded: “It was there for all to see that she was a Town councillor and making these comments has undoubtedly brought the Council into disrepute.”
Sandra Parnell’s comments formed part of an apparently orchestrated smear campaign by Hertsmere Conservatives against their Labour opponent during the by-election. Conservative Cllr Paul Morris posted a photo of Dan alongside a caption suggesting that he supported middle-east terrorist groups on the large digital billboard he owns outside Elstree & Borehamwood Rail Station.
Carter Ruck also issued a letter to the eventually successful Conservative candidate, Cllr Brett Rosehill warning him about extremely serious untrue allegations he made about Dan in a highly misleading letter that was delivered to voters two days before polling day. Both Rosehill and Hertsmere Conservatives were warned that their actions during the election campaign were libellous and a potential violation of electoral law.
This was the third election running in which the local Tories had specifically targeted Jewish candidates in their smear campaigns. Dan lost his election by just 100 votes.
“The smear campaign and anti-Semitic hatred that my family and I suffered brought us great distress and was very hurtful,” said Dan. “I am pleased that Cllr Parnell has acknowledged her wrongdoing and that Ms Rosehill has removed the false allegation she made about me. Many people in Borehamwood contacted me after the election to say that they were angry with Conservatives for having deceived them into voting for their candidate based on a number of defamatory smears against me.”
He continued: “Jewish people who were thinking of standing for two opposition parties have told me that they now fear doing so because of the pattern of abuse that Jewish candidates have suffered at the hands of the Tories. This upsets me deeply. Jews should never be hounded out of public life just because of their background. It really doesn’t help that the Town Council is refusing to condemn what their own Deputy Mayor said. Our town has a large Jewish population and we need to know that our elected bodies stand by us when we are attacked like this.”
During the election campaign Dan suffered a stream of anti-Semitic attacks on social media where he was told to go to the gas chambers, and labelled as a self-hating and disgusting Jew, a Jewish c**t, a Hezbollah supporter and ordered to be sent to Tehran.
Dan admits that as a local Labour Party activist, he gets used to the rough and tumble of politics. Just four days before polling day, the Jewish Chronicle had published a hatchet-job article on him, based on a story from 2015 that he and a number of other Jews had signed a letter defending Jeremy Corbyn against accusations of antisemitism, including his appeals for dialogue on all sides in the Middle East to protect human life.
But he was totally unprepared for what happened next. “Imagine you had never held public office before,” he said. “You come out of your busy local rail station in the rush hour and see your own face with a red rosette on a mocked up newspaper front page on a huge LED screen owned by a leading Tory councillor. It beams down to thousands of commuters in your town, implying you support Islamist Middle East terrorist groups. Worse still, you are Jewish. I’ll never forget my body freezing when I saw that image, knowing it would unleash a tirade of hate against me.”
Following a referral by the Electoral Commission, a complaint was made to the police about Hertsmere Conservatives for alleged breaches of the Representation of the People Act (1983) relating to multiple electoral law offences. The police investigation is ongoing.