A Conservative councillor has resigned from the party due to the time it has taken for an appeal surrounding an alleged “negative” election to be decided.
Councillor Paul Morris OBE, who represents Bushey Heath on Hertsmere Borough Council, and four other Hertsmere Conservative members came under fire following an alleged “negative campaign” against Labour candidate councillor Dan Ozarow in the run up to the Borehamwood by-election in February 2020.
Cllr Ozarow was allegedly told to “go to the gas chambers”, labelled a “Jew c**t”, and a “Nazi”, among dozens of examples of abuse and defamation targeted at him across social media.
He has said that the abuse stemmed from Conservative councillors sharing an article from The Jewish Chronicle in groups on Facebook.
In the article posted by The Jewish Chronicle, it was alleged that cllr Ozarow had defended Mr Corbyn against claims of anti-semitism alleging the then Labour leader supported terrorist group Hezbollah.
A panel led by independent QC Richard Price OBE found that councillors Brett Rosehill – who won the by-election – Glenn Briski and Paul Morris OBE were “party to a personal campaign against the claimant in relation to the 2020 by-election, and which continued for many months”.
The decision made by the panel is still under appeal two years later, leading to cllr Morris deciding to step away from the party.
In resigning from his position, cllr Morris said he will continue as an Independent Conservative and will ensure his constituents receive his continued support.
In his statement, cllr Morris said: “I have the highest regard for my local Conservative colleagues and will continue to work collaboratively where possible.
“I regret having to take this monumental step particularly as cllr Ozarow will be of the view he has achieved his goal of disrupting the Conservative administration, however my departure from the party follows an appalling process that has taken an inordinate period to resolve and remains in abeyance.”
David Wernick, chairman of the Hertsmere Conservatives Association, said: “The Conservatives Association of Hertsmere deeply regrets the resignation of cllr Paul Morris OBE from the Conservative Party.
“Paul has served both the Jewish and wider communities of Hertsmere with honour and integrity for many many years and the reasons behind his resignation are a matter of deep regret to all his colleagues. We both fully understand and support his position and can only hope that at some point in the future he feels able to return to our Conservative family.”
In response to his resignation, cllr Ozarow said he was “saddened” by some of cllr Morris’ comments.
He said: “My only goal was to get justice, and I achieved that when the residents of Borehamwood Kenilworth overwhelmingly voted for me and Labour when we defeated the Tories in last year’s second by-election. I achieved it again when in April this year, the Conservative Party itself, chaired by an independent QC and approved by their national co-chairman found that cllr Morris and four of his Hertsmere party colleagues had undertaken a negative and personal campaign against me that ‘may well have encouraged’ the anti-semitic hatred I suffered.
“I would say to cllr Morris let’s draw a line under this and try to restore dignity to our local politics. It is what local people deserve.”