Jewish Labour councillor says he will not be 'bullied' out of public life after being hissed in budget debate

The only Jewish councillor representing Newham said he will not be "bullied" out of public life after he was booed and hissed during a full council meeting.

Labour councillor Joshua Garfield faced hisses and boos when he got up to speak in the town hall's budget debate on Thursday night.

The meeting had to be halted while security cleared the public gallery.

Mr Garfield said: "If members of the gallery want to hiss me they may want to speak to my face about the issues they have. I won’t accept it.”

It was alleged that those making noises were supporters of Newham Independents, who are the opposition group on the council.

The party is led by former Labour member Mehmood Mirza, who was suspended by the party in 2020 after being accused of antisemitism. He denies the allegations.

Mr Garfield added: "Robust debate is something I and my colleagues in Labour always welcome. But I’ve spent four years as the only Jewish member of this council. Eighteen months as the only Jewish member of cabinet.

“It will take a lot more to bully me out of public life.”

When the meeting was reconvened after 15 minutes, council chair Rohima Rahman said: "Any antisemitism or Islamophobia is not acceptable for this council.”

It follows the public having to be removed from Tower Hamlets’ budget debate on Wednesday night after councillors were accused of racism and sexism.

Women members threatened to leave unless action was taken against onlookers who were “persistently disrupting proceedings with abusive and disrespectful conduct”.

Opposition councillor Marc Francis was shouted down by the public gallery when he criticised the amount the borough’s independent mayor Lutfur Rahman was spending on his private office.

A member of the public allegedly called him “racist” and when the speaker could not calm down proceeding security had to intervene to remove people.