By Adam Moses
Conservative councillor Ryan Houghton has pulled out of being the new leader of the Aberdeen Conservatives less than a week after taking up the position.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has welcomed the decision.
Houghton eight years ago, under a username, reportedly wrote on a martial arts forum there was “no credible evidence to suggest the Holocaust did not happen” but revealed he found some events “fabricated” and “exaggerated in some cases”.
Houghton also praised “interesting” research of antisemitic Holocaust-denier David Irving. He later posted that he was “not defending” Irving’s views.
Houghton apologised, noting in a statement that he was a member of the Holocaust Education Trust, had visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and had “never held antisemitic or intolerant views.”
CAA had a clear message for the Tory politician.
“Denying the scope of the Holocaust is a breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism,” noted a CAA spokesperson. “It is clear that someone with a record of doing so is not an appropriate leader for the Aberdeen Conservative Party. Mr Houghton’s withdrawal is the right decision, if the local Jewish community and the general public are to have confidence in the Party.”
When Houghton was suspended over anti-Semitic comments only to be reinstated, CAA criticised the decision.
“It is appalling that a politician who has previously minimised the impact of the Holocaust, a genocide which killed six million Jews, has been promoted to leader of the Aberdeen Conservatives,” commented a CAA spokesperson. “This is not what zero tolerance looks like.”
Aside from the Houghton episode, CAA lamented mixed results across all political parties relating to the Jewish community and antisemitism in this month’s local elections.
In England, Tory candidate Darran Davies, who used an antisemitic “Jew Boy” slur online before apologising, won his Hillingdon Council seat and former MP Labour Ruth George was successful in Whaley Bridge ward, Derbyshire County Council.
CAA has an outstanding complaint against George, and another former Labour MP, Lisa Forbes, who missed out in the Fletton and Woodston ward in Peterborough.
Former Liberal Democrat MP David Ward was expelled over comments about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel. Ward, who ran as an Independent in the Bolton and Undercliffe ward in Bradford, lost.
Antisemitism reports emerged regarding Banbury’s Labour candidates.
Cllr Clair Bell lost in Calthorpe North, Cllr Wajdan Majeed failed in Calthorpe South and Cllr Cassi Perri lost in Banbury Town Centre.
Labour Party Councillor Ross Willmott was unsuccessful as Leicester and Rutland’s Police and Crime Commissioner. He has previously shared antisemitic Facebook posts
The Green Party’s Ian Middleton was elected in the Oxfordshire ward of Kidlington South but Andrew Carey-Fuller was not elected in Lewisham’s New Cross ward.
London Real Party candidate Brian Rose, who interviewed antisemitic hate preacher, David Icke, in a podcast failed in his campaign for Mayor of London.
In Scotland, SNP candidates Stephanie Callaghan retained her seat in Uddingston and Bellshill, Lanarkshire. But Colm Merrick and Suzanne McLaughlin failed in Glasgow wards. Past antisemitic comments social media by the trio emerged during the race.
Derek Jackson, meantime, failed to win for the Liberal Party after arriving at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena performing a Nazi salute, claiming his actions were satire. He was later escorted out by police.
In Wales, representing Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, Carrie Harper and Sahar Al-Faifi all failed to make the Welsh Assembly.
Joe Glasman, CAA Head of Political Investigations, said, “Not only are some of these results troubling, but the very fact that some of these controversial candidates were endorsed by their parties to stand for office in the first place is deeply disappointing. We have publicised the records of many of these figures in the past, in many instances submitting formal complaints directly to their parties. Yet here they are again, representing their parties on local election ballots.
“No political party should have allowed these candidates to stand for office, particularly after the EHRC made clear that its recommendations applied not just to Labour but to all parties. These elections have shown how much more there is to do to combat antisemitism in public life.”