A Conservative councillor who was reprimanded over a “negative” election campaign that "may well have encouraged" antisemitism has quit the party.

In a statement, Bushey Heath’s Paul Morris indicated he has stepped away because of how long an appeal over the decision to reprimand him is taking to be resolved.

In the spring, Cllr Morris and four other Hertsmere Conservative members were rapped following an investigation by the Conservative Party Central Office.

The probe was triggered after the Hertsmere Labour Party accused the Tories of “inciting racial hatred” after its Jewish candidate, Dan Ozarow, was subjected to abuse and death threats in the run-up to a by-election in Borehamwood in February 2020.

Cllr Ozarow says he was told to "go to the gas chambers", labelled a "Jew c***", but also a "Nazi", and told that he "lacked a Jewish soul".

He says the abuse was caused by Tory councillors, who are Jewish themselves, sharing a now deleted 2015 article from the Jewish Chronicle in Facebook community groups. The article was about a letter signed by Cllr Ozarow appearing to defend former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn against claims of antisemitism.

Read more: Antisemitic abuse may have been 'encouraged' by 'negative' Tory election campaign

Read more: Antisemitism row erupts after 2015 letter signed by Labour candidate resurfaces

Watford Observer: Cllr Dan OzarowCllr Dan Ozarow (Image: Dan Ozarow)

Police dismissed complaints by Cllr Ozarow, who was elected in 2021, but a CCHQ panel led by independent QC Richard Price found councillors Brett Rosehill - who won the by-election - Glenn Briski and Paul Morris were "party to a personal campaign against the claimant in relation to the 2020 by-election, and which continued for many months".

He also concluded "negative campaigning may well have encouraged others to send antisemitic posts or messages to the complainant".

The decision to reprimand five members of the Hertsmere Conservative Association (HCA) in total, including leader Morris Bright, was appealed – the appeal remains unresolved and appears to be the catalyst for Cllr Morris’ resignation.

Watford Observer: Councillor Paul MorrisCouncillor Paul Morris (Image: Hertsmere Borough Council)

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.”

Cllr Morris, who was first elected in 2009 and described the outcome of the investigation as a “somewhat strange finding against four Jews”, added: “My representation as the councillor for Bushey Heath will continue as an Independent Conservative and I will ensure my constituents receive continued support."

Responding to the resignation, HCA chairman David Wernick said: “We deeply regret 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.”

Watford Observer: Dan Ozarow pictured after being elected as a councillor in Borehamwood in May 2021Dan Ozarow pictured after being elected as a councillor in Borehamwood in May 2021 (Image: Newsquest)

Cllr Ozarow, who says he and his family were “deeply traumatised” by the abuse received, said he was “saddened” by some of the comments made about him by Cllr Morris in his resignation statement.

He continued: “My only goal was to pursue justice and I achieved that when the Conservative Party reprimanded Cllr Morris and four of his Hertsmere party colleagues.”

Cllr Ozarow also called for a digital billboard near Elstree & Borehamwood station that is owned by Cllr Morris, which Cllr Ozarow claims has been “repeatedly used to smear opposition councillors”, to be taken down.

Watford Observer: One of the displays on a billboard owned by Conservative councillor Paul MorrisOne of the displays on a billboard owned by Conservative councillor Paul Morris (Image: Dan Ozarow)

Among the displays was a mocked up headline in a fictitious newspaper called Hertsmere Times that insinuated Cllr Ozarow supported the Islamist militant group Hezbollah.

The Labour member pleaded: “Let’s restore dignity to our politics. It is what our residents deserve.”

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