A “long-running feud” in Hackney has spilled out into the open after a local activist claimed an “unsubstantiated accusation of antisemitism” had been made against him by a Lib Dem councillor ahead of tomorrow’s elections.
The row erupted following the launch of a joint campaign by Cazenove Area Action Group (CAAG) and Clapton Terrace Residents’ Association (CTRA) over Oldhill Street – which they call the “most lawless street in the borough”.
The groups want the council to act on “repeated daily squalor, meat waste washed in the gutters and illegal pavement trading” on the high street, which is home to a number of Jewish shops and businesses.
The campaign has set up a Tumblr blog to document instances of illicit behaviour on Oldhill Street, with pictures and videos.
Adrian Holliday, co-chair of CTRA and one of 300 members of CAAG, accused local Lib Dem councillor Ian Sharer of “barely acknowledging hundreds of photos plus many emails from residents over many months”.
Sharer, who is Jewish, denied this, and said in response: “Mr Holliday is insinuating that I’m protecting Jewish shops which dump rubbish on Oldhill Street. Let me be clear, I have never sought to interfere on behalf of those shops.”
He added: “I’ve also seen Christmas trees dumped on Oldhill Street, a lorry parked illegally outside the fire exit to Broad Common Estate for hours, and a car left abandoned for weeks, but Mr Holliday seems to have ignored these – possibly because they have nothing to do with the Jewish community.”
Holliday called this an “accusation of antisemitism” and said he “cannot respond to unsubstantiated claims”.
He said Cllr Sharer’s words are a “sorry example of shooting the messenger rather than tackling what’s gone wrong in the ward”.
A spokesperson for Hackney Lib Dems later told the Citizen that Cllr Sharer was “keen to make it known that he was not saying that Mr Holliday is an antisemite” and “does not want to play that card”.
The spokeperson went on to say: “What is clear is that Mr Holliday has made lots of complaints which are all to do with a certain area and certain businesses. It is up to readers to work out why that is.”
Cazenove ward has three sitting Lib Dem councillors, and is expected to be one of the tightest races in the borough in tomorrow’s polls.
Cllr Sharer is standing for re-election, along with two new Lib Dem candidates.
Both Hackney Lib Dems and Cllr Sharer have also accused Adrian Holliday of using local residents’ groups as a political tool, and of “aggressive” and “intimidating” behaviour.
Cllr Sharer said: “This campaign is being led by one man, Adrian Holliday, who I believe has a vote Labour poster on his door and is using CAAG for political gain.
“CAAG is supposed to be a non-political organisation, but I’m aware of an email Mr Holliday sent to members asking Green Party supporters to vote Labour, with the aim of ousting me and my fellow Liberal Democrat councillors.”
Holliday provided the Citizen with a copy of the message in question, which was sent out on CAAG’s “email communications network”.
In the email, which includes a screenshot of the 2014 election results in Cazenove, Holliday states: “Given the tightness of the election between Labour and the Lib Dems in 2014 you may wish to vote tactically on Thursday 3 May – for whatever your preference.”
CAAG’s chair, Iain Bruce, told the Citizen that the email “did not seek to direct votes in any particular direction” and therefore “did not breach the group’s neutral party-political position”.
Bruce said the email “does not fit Ian Sharer’s description of it as ‘asking Green Party members to vote Labour'”, adding: “Nowhere in Adrian’s wording is there any such attempt. Adrian did not mention the Greens or any other party.
“One could just as easily argue the counter position to Ian Sharer’s in that it would alert Lib Dem voters to make sure they got out and used their votes to bolster Ian and the other Lib Dem candidates.”
He went on to say: “We were saddened by the suggestion of any political bias by CAAG and regret that Cllr Sharer should impute such.”
Bruce said CAAG’s email network is “there to encourage the exchange of information and views”, and said he had received “no complaints concerning Holliday”.
“If someone feels passionately about an issue of local concern and wants to begin a debate, communicating through the email system can prove effective,” he said.
“Those holding a counter position can respond – and thus a debate joined and, hopefully, a resolution achieved. Robust discussion is the basis of democracy.
“It follows, then, that Mr Holliday is as free to initiate a topic as Cllr Sharer is free to use the same email system in rebuttal – and vice versa.”
Holliday said: “I am not a Labour Party member. I voted Lib Dem and Green Party in recent elections. I am voting Labour on Thursday as, like many, I’m fed up with the complacency of Cllr Sharer and his colleagues in Cazenove ward.
“Cllr Sharer’s accusation of antisemitism is a sorry example of shooting the messenger rather than tackling what’s gone wrong in the ward.
“The photographs our community collected should never have been ignored. The issue Ian Sharer has to address is why he failed to respond to so many environmental complaints.
“Given the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the ongoing parking in front of the fire gates of Broad Common Estate, containing almost 50 flats, shows how removed he is from everyday community concerns.”
‘Intimidating’ and ‘aggressive’
Cllr Sharer, who told the Citizen he has replied to “at least two” emails from Mr Holliday, said: “CAAG does a good job of holding councillors’ feet to the fire on local issues. Its members probably won’t vote for me on Thursday, but they are good people.
“But Mr Holliday is someone I find hard to deal with. I met him when he was taking pictures on Oldhill Street and found him to be very aggressive.
“A member of the local Liberal Democrat Party even complained about Mr Holliday’s aggressive behaviour towards him while he was out leafleting.”
Hackney Lib Dems confirmed it was “aware of an incident involving Mr Holliday and a party activist”.
It is understood that the activist complained to the party that Mr Holliday had followed them “for some time” while they were out leafleting – behaviour they described as “intimidating” – and later confronted them, allegedly saying “We’re all going to vote Labour”.
A party spokesperson said: “There has been a long-running feud between Adrian Holliday and our local councillors which has led to a lack of judgement from Mr Holliday in his use of local residents’ groups.
“Our councillors in Cazenove work incredibly hard for all sections of the community and do their best to resolve issues raised by residents.
“They also take on and raise issues that our activists come across whilst talking to residents from all over the borough that Labour councillors are not dealing with quick enough or are ignoring.”
Mr Holliday says all the claims made against him are “unsubstantiated”, adding: “It is Ian Sharer’s record that local people will make a decision on tomorrow, not mine.”
In the midst of all this, CAAG and CTRA are running a campaign for greater council enforcement on Oldhill Street.
As well as problems with waste, campaigners say the road is “plagued by widespread illegal parking and regular blocking of the emergency fire gates at Broad Common Estate” – as reported by the Citizen in April.
And last year, the council released a video showing drivers mounting the pavement on Oldhill Street to avoid traffic.
Campaigners claim to have been told by the council that it is “not appropriate” to resort to legal action to clean up Oldhill Street.
Hackney Council is yet to respond to a request for comment.
On the problems with waste, Cllr Sharer said: “No-one should ever dump rubbish illegally, but these shops have contracts with the council for their bins – and unfortunately there is nowhere to store the bins other than on the pavement.”
He added: “As for blocking the emergency gates, I am sympathetic with Mr Holliday’s point of view, and agree that any driver caught doing it should be given a ticket.”
Holliday said: “Local residents don’t understand why environmental prosecutions have not taken place. Whether the problem is with the council, local councillors or lawyers, we have had enough.
“We will publish evidence week in, week out on the web until it is sorted and we ask readers to send us any photos they have of Hackney’s most lawless street.”
To see the campaign’s examples of problems on Oldhill Street, please visit its website at oldhillstreet.tumblr.com