Appalling Miscarriage of Justice at Solent University

Those who call out antisemitism have an obligation to also call out false accusations of antisemitism. Call it a ‘moral’ obligation if you will – but I just consider it an obligation. That’s why I was adamant (in the face of many assertions to the contrary, for example from the CAA) that what Kevin Myers wrote about Jewish presenters at the BBC was NOT antisemitic.

There was another example widely reported yesterday. In late March 2019 Stephen Lamonby, 73, a part-time lecturer at Solent University, remarked to a colleague, Dr Janet Bonar, that people from different countries had become good at certain things owing to “high exposure”.  He said that Germans are good at engineering because they are “exposed to a high level of industry from an early stage in their lives”. When Dr Bonar, a US-born engineering lecturer, mentioned her degree in physics, Mr Lamonby said that Jewish people had “a particular gift” for the subject. He used Albert Einstein as an example and asked Dr Bonar if she was Jewish. She took offence and called Mr Lamonby a racist. He replied: “I believe that the Jewish are the cleverest people in the world. They are much maligned because of it. I asked if you were Jewish because of your ability with maths/physics et cetera. Which is a speciality of theirs.” He also said: “I have a soft spot for young black males. I do think that they are underprivileged and many [are] without fathers et cetera [and] need all the help they can get.”

Dr Bonar (who in fact was Mr Lamonby’s new boss) reported him to the University Administration. He was put through their disciplinary procedure and sacked in June 2019.  On 22 June 2020 an employment tribunal dismissed his claim for Unfair Dismissal.

The sacking was ludicrous and was yet another example of the ‘Woke’ regime which is gripping academia. There is nothing whatsoever ‘offensive’ about saying that different nationalities have different comparative advantages. It is a basic precept of international trade. Economists learn it at undergraduate level. The UK has a comparative advantage in financial services. France has a comparative advantage in wine. Germany has a comparative advantage in engineering. If there was no such thing as comparative advantage, there would be no international trade (assuming equal costs of production). (In fact Mr Lamonby told me that he said that three countries (Germany, Japan and the US) stand out in engineering but that his detractors only quoted Germany to make him look worse).

Neither is there anything offensive about saying either that Jews are clever or that Jews are good at Maths and Physics. It isn’t a stereotype because Mr Lamonby was obviously not claiming that EVERY Jew is good at Maths or Physics. Neither is it derogatory – the opposite. It was a statement of fact. Although Jews account for less than 0.2% of the world’s population, at least 20% of all Nobel Prizes have been won by Jews, including 56 winners of the Physics Prize – nearly half of the total. Neither was it in the least offensive to ask Professor Bonar if she is Jewish. Obviously it was meant positively, in view of her ability with Maths and knowing that she has a physics degree. Her bio says that at Solent she has ‘taught maths at foundation and at level 4, as well as performing action research in maths teaching’.

How about Mr Lamonby’s comment about young black males?

Family breakdown fuels poverty. In the US today, only 44% of black children have a father in the home. It’s little different in the UK.  And here and here. Why on earth should it be taboo to say it in a university conversation? If Professor Bonar has evidence to the contrary, she should have offered it to Mr Lamonby – not reported him!

And for heavens’ sakes … Mr Lamonby made the point in a caring way, not a derogatory way! ( “…soft spot  ……..need all the help they can get”).

Appallingly at the employment tribunal Judge CH O’Rourke rejected Mr Lamonby’s case. But the judgment is bizarre in several places. First the Judge says ‘I am not permitted to substitute my judgment for that of the employer’, citing section 98 of the Employment Rights Act. In other words he thought he only had jurisdiction over the process of the dismissal, not the substance (the rights and wrongs of the dismissal). That’s nonsense. Section 98 says he can ‘determine whether the dismissal is fair or unfair’, depending on whether the employer acted ‘reasonably or unreasonably’ and ‘in accordance with equity and the substantial merits of the case’.

And in his submission Mr Lamonby mentioned that in Professor Bonar’s anger at him (he said she has a reputation for a short temper) she shoved some chairs around in the canteen, presumably when she got up to leave. The Judge noted that he had not made this point in his email to her after the meeting nor at the University investigation meeting. Look at this: ‘I find that this comment is a belated embellishment on his evidence  …. done to attempt to discredit Dr Bonar and which reflects poorly on his credibility.’ So because he didn’t immediately record the shoving of the chairs it is therefore antisemitic to say that Jews are good at Physics and Maths? Utterly ludicrous!

Google reveals four recent cases where Judge CH O’Rourke’s decisions have gone to Appeal.  In three of them (marked with red crosses) it is stated that he made an error of law.

lamonby 5 july 2020

lamonby 6 july 2020

lamonby 7 july 2020

lamonby 8 july 2020

And what you don’t read in the judgment (but what Mr Lamonby told me) is that Judge CH O’Rourke appeared as some points to be acting as Defence Counsel. He told Angus Gloag (Mr Lamonby’s barrister) that he was being too aggressive. He accused Mr Lamonby of giving ‘evasive’ testimony. Mr Lamonby told me what was behind that comment. Having regard to his age (he is now 73) the Judge asked him if he was ‘part of the Brexit generation’, with the intimation (which he took) that he was a bigoted Brexit voter. Mr Lamonby was so taken aback that he didn’t know how to respond – so he was marked down as ‘evasive’.

A Judge who is (i) ageist (ii) assumes the political affiliation of a claimant (iii) assumes that all Brexit voters are racist. Hmmmmm …………… (Mr Lamonby told me that he didn’t vote in the 2016 Referendum as he is strictly apolitical).

I hope that Mr Lamonby appeals. Judge O’Rourke’s verdict must be overturned on appeal. Mr Lamonby is no racist, how dare Solent University suggest that he is! Maybe Professor Hall of Solent University – who testified against Mr Lamonby in the Tribunal – could tell us why Solent has not (to the best of my knowledge) adopted the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, since they claim to know so much about antisemitism?

And Mr Lamonby is dedicated to teaching – he told me ‘Knowledge not passed on, is knowledge lost’.

Mr Lamonby must be given a public apology so that he is not stigmatised as a ‘racist’. He must be given compensation and offered his job back. The compensation must reflect the fact that he is unlikely to wish to return to Solent.

Please sign and share my petition.

Addendum 1: Nick Ferrari interviewed Mr Lamonby on LBC on Wednesday. You can hear it on catchup on the LBC App at 01:19:45 and here.

Addendum 2: Excellent piece in Mail On Sunday.

Addendum 3: “Marched out in front of my students like a thief”by three women from the university’s HR department: Jenni Fraser in the JC.

Addendum 4: “Victim of the Cancel Culture” – Here’s the take of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

Addendum 5:  Listen to Stephen Lamonby telling his story to broadcaster James Marlow on Jonny Gould’s Jewish State podcast.

Addendum 6:
Private Eye ….

lamonby private eye
Addendum 7: My column in Jewish Weekly this week

lamonby jewish weekly

Addendum 8: Fabulous anonymous response (by a Rabbi) in this week’s Jewish Weekly (p14) to my OpEd last week (see Addendum 7 above).

lamonby for blog 3

lamonby for blog 2

lamonby JW letter 2 14 aug 2020

Addendum 9: One of the many supportive letters Mr Lamonby has received
Lamonby S Letter

Addendum 10: The most detailed analysis thus far, by Professor Richard Landes and myself.


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