Misconduct cases against two councillors accused of supporting alleged antisemitic comments at a Pro Palestine rally in Darlington have been dismissed. 

Green Party leader Matthew Snedker and Labour’s Sajna Ali were the subject of an investigation by Darlington Borough Council after complaints from rival Conservative councillors. 

The two complaints about the politicians were submitted in December 2023 by councillors Scott Durham and Jamie Bartch following the ‘Stop the genocide in Gaza protest’ just days earlier in Darlington town centre.

People at the protest were allegedly heard chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Israel is a terrorist state” - and both councillors were criticised for not condemning the language. 

“By their presence, as councillors they have given agency and visible acceptance to open verbal and group hostility to, prejudice towards, and discrimination against Jews,” cllrs Durham and Bartch said. “This is a crime and brings the institution and members and employees of Darlington Borough Council into disrepute.”

Responding to the allegations, Cllr Snedker said he is not antisemitic and does not condone or support anyone who is. The College ward councillor revealed that although he did hear the chanting, he “did not feel it appropriate to criticise or condemn people, which he considered had some justification.” the council’s ruling said.

Cllr Ali, of Northgate ward, said she attended the protest to call for a ceasefire in the Middle East and did not believe she had done anything wrong by participating. The Labour member added that she was unaware of the chants as she was wearing earplugs. 

The Conservatives’ complaints were also accused of being politically motivated, to disrupt rival political parties. Cllr Snedker added that police officers were at the rally and did not have any issue with the language used by participants. 

However, the local authority ruled that cllrs Snedker and Adi did not breach the code of conduct and that it was not clear that the chants were antisemitic. Luke Swinhoe, assistant director of law and governance, said: “I do not think that there is enough in the complaint for the potential for a finding that there was a breach of the Members Code of Conduct. As a result, I do not think there is any merit in investigating this complaint.”

Recommended reading: 

Grab our digital subscription for just £2 for 2 months and stay connected with local news

Now, the Conservative Party has appealed the decision to the Local Government Ombudsman after saying the council “failed to investigate” its claims. 

In a statement following the council’s decision on the probe to have the councillors cleared, Darlington Conservatives said: “It is abhorrent that any councillor representing Darlington would think it acceptable, in the light of the recent tragedy of October 7, to employ such language and that it was appropriate for an individual to set out what is and is not antisemitic when they are not a member of the discriminated group. 

“In light of the clear failure of Darlington Borough Council to adequately respond to the complaint and in our opinion failed to follow its own complaints process, Darlington Conservatives will raise this matter with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.”