BLACKBURN with Darwen Council’s deputy leader has been suspended by the Labour Party over an allegedly anti-Semitic social media post.

Borough finance boss Cllr Andy Kay will now sit as an independent and give up his official positions while a complaint against him is investigated.

The 73-year-old, a veteran councillor for 38 of the past 41 years, is also subject to a council inquiry over whether he breached its standards code.

The complaints stem from a 2014 Facebook post which linked to a Guardian article headlined ‘Gaza’s only power plant destroyed in Israel’s most intense airstrike yet’.

Cllr Kay commented on the post at the time: ‘The Jewish state has learnt nothing from the Nazis and the Jewish leaders are worse than the Nazis.’

Its emergence in a national newspaper on the eve of the General Election embarrassed then Labour candidate now MP Kate Hollern who had to apologise for ‘liking’ it.

Blackburn South-East ward’s Cllr Kay has promised to ‘vigorously defend’ himself and denied being anti-Jewish.

Cllr John Slater, leader of the Blackburn with Darwen Conservative group, said: “I was quite shocked when I read about the original post. I am pleased that the Labour Party is now taking anti-Semitism seriously and suspending people.”

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn Labour Party secretary, said: “I can confirm that Cllr Kay has been suspended from the Labour Party by its National Executive Committee. This issue is under investigation and the local party has no more comment.”

Cllr Kay said: “I have had my Labour Party membership administratively suspended. I assume it stems from my 2014 Facebook post.

“I shall vigorously defend myself and any charges which come from this. I am certainly not anti-Semitic, never have been and never will be. I was criticising the Israeli government at the time.”

Cllr Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “Cllr Kay has notified me he has received a notice of administrative suspension from holding office or representing the Labour Party. As a result he has stood down from his executive board duties. An executive member for finance and will be appointed later this week.”

Mrs Hollern said yesterday: “I understand that further to a complaint made about a Facebook post by Andy the Labour Party is carrying out an investigation and will rule accordingly in due course. Suspension is standard procedure in such cases and Andy has stepped down from his official positions.”

Livesey with Pleasington Tory Cllr Paul Marrow, who made the standards complaint to the council’s chief executive Denise Park, said: “I just don’t know how a councillor of Andy Kay’s seniority could post such a comment. It appears to make this kind of thing acceptable which it isn’t. He should have known better.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

A report on Cllr Kay is expected to be considered by the council’s standards committee in March.

David Fairclough, the council’s legal director, said: “This is being considered in accordance with the arrangements set out in the council’s constitution.

“The council has no legal powers to suspend an elected councillor. The Labour Party has separate processes and its own code of conduct.”

In May 2016 then Blackburn with Darwen councillor and former mayor Salim Mulla and Burnley’s Cllr Shah Hussain were both suspended by Labour for allegedly anti-Semitic social media posts. Both were subsequently cleared and reinstated.