A political group has called for Preston City Council’s leader and cabinet member to resign after the Palestinian flag was flown above the Town Hall.Advertisement
Two weeks have passed since councillor Peter Rankin and his cabinet members took the decision to fly the Palestinian flag due to the humanitarian crisis taking place in Gaza.
James Barker, Preston UKIP spokesman, said: “International conflict is not an area in which Preston City Council should have any role whatsoever.
“Councillors claim that the flag was flown as a gesture in support of the victims of war. If that was truly the case they would also have flown the Israeli flag. They chose not to, leaving Preston in the position of supporting only one side.
“Such a move has severely endangered good community relations between Jews and Muslims as well as angering secularists of no religion. It is highly irresponsible and UKIP says we should have no more of it.
“In future the council should fly only the Union Flag, the flag of St George, the flag of St Andrew and the flag of Wales so that all in Preston can be united as UK citizens.
“The people of Preston want the council to be focused on local issues: it should not be taking sides in a foreign conflict. Councillor Rankin should now apologise and then step down from positions of responsibility. Councillor Boswell should also consider his position.
“If they refuse to do so then the Labour Group should remove them.”
Councillor Robert Boswell, cabinet member for communities and environment, defended the council’s decision in a strong rebuttal of the comments from UKIP.
He said: “I won’t deal with the point on good community relations. I don’t feel that UKIP are in a position to lecture anyone on building community relations with their divisive policies. The comment is beneath contempt.
“The decision on flying any flags falls within my portfolio of responsibility on the Council. I took the decision. However, it was with the support of the leader, the cabinet and the Labour group.
“The UKIP quote is highly inaccurate and contained many errors. We don’t take sides in international conflicts. We did not fly the Palestine flag because we are pro or anti any state. We did it because we are pro humanity and we saw a humanitarian crisis taking place in Gaza – a similar humanitarian crisis does not appear to be taking place in Israel – and we wished to use our – albeit very limited – influence to draw attention to this crisis and ask the international community to step in and stop this humanitarian crisis continuing. That is not taking sides and we have constantly stated we are neutral on the causes of the conflict. Our motives and our message were no different from many other organisations that have made similar humanitarian pleas – including the United Nations, international charities and other councils.
“The shame in all this lies with the highly politically motivated individuals – like the Preston branch of UKIP and many others – who have deliberately placed a political interpretation on a humanitarian gesture. Whilst people are arguing over the causes of the conflict and making cheap political points in regard to our gesture innocent people are dying. It is the people who are ignoring all the information we have produced behind the rationale for our gesture that need to explain themselves.
“The flag flying protocol is agreed by council. The circumstances and decision making procedure with regard to flag flying is council policy. Only council can change it. If UKIP wish to influence this they need to get some councillors elected to the Council. We are not going to respond in this matter to a small opportunist party that has no electoral base in Preston.
“We are a highly ethical council and feel we had a moral obligation to respond when a group of Preston people bring to our attention the extent of the suffering that is occurring in Gaza. The flying of the Palestine flag does not in anyway divert resources or attention from the work we are doing to make Preston a better place to live in. The quality and quantity of our services as always been our major concern. This has not been compromised. However, we would be failing in our duty as human beings if we didn’t do something when evidence is presented to us as to the tragedy that is happening in Gaza.”
The council recently chose to fly the Jamaican flag to mark 52 years of independence for the country, and a petition was launched on Facebook to have the Israeli flag flown above the Town Hall.
Peter Rankin appeared on Preston FM to discuss the issue, as did Conservative group leader Eric Fazackley. You can listen to the clips below, if you’re on our app click here to listen to Rankin and here to listen to Fazackley:
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