Tory MP accused of errors of judgment as two staffers share ‘antisemitic’ tropes

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Tory MP accused of errors of judgment as two staffers share ‘antisemitic’ tropes

EXCLUSIVE: Peterborough MP Paul Bristow, who once described antisemitism as as 'stain' on the city, is employing two private office staff members who have shared tropes

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Paul Bristow won the Peterborough seat from Labour’s Lisa Forbes in 2019
Paul Bristow won the Peterborough seat from Labour’s Lisa Forbes in 2019

A Conservative MP has been accused of making “critical errors of judgment” after a second member of his private office staff faced claims that had shared messages containing antisemitic tropes.

Paul Bristow had previously claimed to want to “tackle” antisemitism in his Peterborough constituency after it emerged he had chosen to employ someone expelled from Labour over the issue as one of his staff members.

Ansar Ali, who once sharing an article about a medal bearing a swastika on one face and a Star of David on the reverse while in Labour, continues to work for the Tory MP.

We can also reveal that Bristow, who served as parliamentary private secretary to the Secretary of State for Science Michelle Donelan until last November, is also employing Muhammad Ikram as a caseworker in his office.

A leaked WhatsApp message sent by Ikram to a Conservative Muslims group chat, shows him branding as “disgraceful” a female Muslim Labour councillor who wrote an article for Jewish News expressing her outrage at the scourge of antisemitism.

Ikram writes of Dr Shabina Qayyum’s article, which expressed her shame at antisemitism in Labour, “Disgraceful. Trying to win Jewish support for her own political greed”.

Bristow had been alerted to Ikram’s conduct by Jewish News back in 2021 after we revealed he was one of 14 candidates across Peterborough’s political parties that had been accused of antisemitism.

In an interview with the local Peterborough Telegraph he described antisemitism as “a stain on our city.”

Ikram had shared an article accusing Israel of promoting a “final solution” for Gaza. He wrote: “Can you really support Zionism after this?”.

But more recently Ikram is also found to have openly engaged in tropes about “blood money” in a vicious attack on Andrew Pakes, Bristow’s Labour challenger in Peterborough at the election.

In a TikTok video on his ikramofficialpb3 account MP Bristow’s caseworker shares a discredited report suggesting Tony Blair has been advising Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on how to expel Palestinians from Gaza.

Ikram can then be heard saying:”The same Tony Blair who has provided thousands of pounds of campaigning to a certain Milton Keynes candidate.

“This man Andrew Peakes (real name Pakes) wants to be your MP for Peterborough.”

Muhammad Ikram posts message in Conservative Muslim WhatsApp group

A report in the Milton Keynes Citizen newspaper in 2015 is displayed in Ikram’s TikTok video, in which an anti-Israel activist had accused Pakes of “taking Blair’s blood Money” when he accepted a £1000 donation from the ex-PM for his unsuccessful campaign to win the seat there.

But referencing Pakes attempt to take Bristow’s seat at the next election, Ikram says:”How much more blood money do you think he will take this time to lie to the faces of the people in Peterborough?”.

In a post on X/Twitter in May 2023 Bristow described Ikram as a “grafter” and added:”No one works harder than Muhammad Ikram.”

The MP said he would make “a brilliant councillor” for the local Dogsthorpe ward.

Muhammad Ikram targets Labour’s election candidate in Peterborough Andrew Pakes with ‘blood money’ smear in Tik Tok video

One Westminster source told Jewish News:”“Paul Bristow needs to come clean about why he has failed not once, but twice, to put his deeds before words regarding antisemitism and his staff.

“For an MP to make such critical errors in judgement and hire two individuals both accused of antisemitism is more than a failure of due diligence- it is either rank hypocrisy or gross negligence on the part of Paul Bristow.”

Asked to comment on Ikram’s use of the term “blood money” having referenced Israeli action in Gaza a Jewish Labour Movement source said:”Talking about blood money combines the worst of antisemitic tropes.

“There’s no room for doubt or interpretation.”

Both Ikram and Ali have their salaries for working in Bristow’s private office paid for by the taxpayer.

The Jewish Chronicle newspaper had offered MP Bristow a platform to explain away his decision to employ Ali, and to claim that he adopted a zero tolerance stance on antisemitism.

Bristow praised Ali as being someone who would “work to bring our city’s diverse communities together based on mutual respect”.

He added Ali “regrets deeply this social media activity and now sees clearly why it is antisemitic”.

The JC also allowed Bristow the opportunity to claim that he was someone who wanted to “fight against hatred and antisemitism. ”

But in April 2021, Jewish News ran an article outlining “shocking” examples of antisemitism amongst both Labour and Tory members in the city.

Paul Bristow, left, with Anzar Ali, right

The Jewish Leadership Council said there was a “specific and identifiable problem” of antisemitism in Peterborough’s political circuit.

Bristow, who Bristow has represented Peterborough since 2019 and has a majority of 2,580, claimed he would invite Jewish communal leaders to meet with him to discuss the crisis. It is unclear if these meetings took place.

In July 2021 Jewish News also revealed Bristow facing further questions about his association with a local councillor suspended by the Tories over claims of “abhorrent” antisemitism.

The MP attended an event in Leeds at which Ishfaq Hussain was also present one month after he was suspended by the Conservatives pending an investigation into his social media posts, including questioning whether citizens of Israel were “true Jews” and a series of further attacks on “Zionists”.

Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge said at the time that Bristow’s continued association with Hussain after his suspension highlights “sickening hypocrisy” with the Tory Party over its handling of antisemitism claims.

Last November Bristow was told to resign from government after he wrote to prime minister Rishi Sunak and said a permanent ceasefire in Gaza would “save lives”.

Number 10 said the comments “were not consistent… with collective responsibility”.

MP Paul Paul Bristow alongside a front page of the Peterborough Telegraph, branding the scandal of antisemitism a ‘stain’ on the city.

He wrote to Sunak about Gaza on 26 October, following meetings in his constituency, including with Peterborough’s Joint Mosques Council.

Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour responded to the problem of antisemitism in the region, suspending multiple candidates only weeks before council elections.

Lisa Forbes, who had previously stood for the party in Peterborough, becoming embroiled in claims around antisemitism, was also prevented from standing again for Labour.

When asked to comment on MP Bristow’s decision to employ two individuals in his office who have faced allegations of antisemitism, a Conservative Party spokesperson did not respond.

A Jewish Labour Movement source added:”Sadly Paul Bristow MP has form here. You’d think following revelations about one his staffers last year he’d been more careful.

“Hiring one antisemite might be regarded as misfortunate. To hire two looks like something much worse than carelessness.

“Mr Bristow’s commitment to tackling anti-Jewish racism is in tatters.”

Bristow and Ikram have both been approached for comment.

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