Mansfield Labour mayoral candidate suspended in anti-Semitism investigation

Sean McCallum served in Iraq as a solider in 2003.
Sean McCallum served in Iraq as a solider in 2003.

A Labour candidate for the Mansfield mayoral election says he is ‘absolutely devastated’ after being suspended pending a party investigation into alleged anti-Semitism.

Sean McCallum, Mansfield District Councillor for Sherwood ward, was only confirmed as the party’s candidate for mayoral election on Wednesday (March 6) but has been suspended days later concerning historical social media posts.

The firefighter and former solider says he ‘does not accept’ the claims and ‘with regret’ has resigned his Labour membership, ‘walking away from politics a sadder and wiser man’.

It comes days after Labour suspended Derby North MP Chris Williamson over his remarks about the party’s handling of the anti-Semitism.

In a statement to the Chad, Mr McCallum said: “Racism in any form is abhorrent.

“Throughout my life I have consistently fought for a fairer, more inclusive world - I will continue to do so, always.

“The accusation laid against me regarding alleged anti-Semitism has been absolutely devastating.

“My friends, family and colleagues know me to be a person of who openly challenges discriminatory behaviour in all its forms.

“I have received kind and loving support from those who know me throughout the last 24 hours, which have been difficult not just for myself, but also my family. I became interested in politics to help people – it really was that simple.

Mr McCallum said he takes responsibility for the social media posts highlighted in the accusation but disputes that they are ‘anti-Semitic’.

He said: “The first was an online article which explained the origins of an illustration used by Labour MP Naz Shah in a tweet for which she was suspended and later apologised.

“The article explains that the creator of the illustration was an eminent Jewish Professor Norman Finklestein, an analyst and expert in the Israeli/Palestine conflict, whose parents survived the holocaust.

“My comments on this article are correct, there is no evidence of ant-Semitism within it. I do not accept that this indicates that I am of an anti-Semitic disposition.

“I have thought long and hard about the second post, to question myself, and my intentions at the time of posting some two years ago.

“In retrospect, I find myself responsible for a poor and regrettable choice of words.

“I am aware that there is now much debate regarding the use of the word ‘Zionism’, and that it is an emotive word which some Jewish people have come to regard as ‘coded’ anti-Semitism.

“While it seems there are also people who do not regard the word as anti-Semitic, my use of it is a matter of regret.

“I am assured of myself though, that I intended no anti-Semitism, coded or otherwise, towards the Jewish people within that post.

“Rather, I was poorly attempting to express my anger and frustration towards the government of Israel, and its political and military policies regarding Palestine.

“This does not make me an anti-Semite – it makes me someone who cares deeply about the loss of life, on both sides that conflict.

“In light of this accusation, I’ve received encouragement from Labour Party members to engage with an internal disciplinary process, explain myself, evidence my ongoing commitment to fighting racist behaviour and clear my name. They believe in me, because they know me for who I am.”

Mr McCallum said he had ‘no faith’ that a ‘fair equitable process would take place’ due to ‘battle raging within the Labour part that has nothing to do with racism, but everything to do with power and control’.

A spokesman for Labour said the party ‘takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously’.

“All complaints about anti-Semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken,” they added.

Mr McCallum was confirmed as a candidate for May’s mayoral election after the previous candidate, Paul Bradshaw, stepped down citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ with Mansfield’s Labour candidate for Parliament, Sonya Ward.