Antisemitism in Political Parties

Barry Sheerman

1979-present: Labour and Co-operative Party Member of Parliament for Huddersfield


  1. On 1st August 2020, following the publication of the 2019 Dissolution Honours list the previous day, Barry Sheerman MP tweeted: [a] “Apparently there’s been a bit of a run on silver shekels!” Shortly afterwards, seemingly by way of explanation for his previous comment, he tweeted: [b] “Apparently Richard Desmond & Philip Green were on the original list for seats in the House of Lords!”


Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Mr Sheerman’s actions and comments constitute a breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

By using language that linked British Jews to the ancient antisemitic slander of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus for ‘Thirty pieces of silver’, as Mr Sheerman himself admitted [1a], he was disseminating a classic antisemitic trope.

By apparently suggesting that two prominent Jewish businessmen might have attempted bribery to secure seats in the House of Lords, thereby invoking antisemitic tropes involving both dishonesty and venality [1a], he was “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

By associating British Jews with “silver shekels”, thereby linking them with Israeli currency [1b], and by implication influencing British politics on behalf of the State of Israel, he was evoking the so-called “dual-loyalty” trope: “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”


A few hours after his original tweets, in the face of considerable criticism, Mr Sheerman tweeted: “I apologise for my earlier tweet. I did not intend the meaning which has upset many, and I am very sorry for the upset and offense [sic] I have caused. I will think more carefully in future and will reflect on this.”

On 2nd August 2020, it was reported that Mr Sheerman had deleted his original tweets and apologised, saying: “I have fought antisemitism all my political life and have been a Friend of Israel since joining as a student at the LSE. I am deeply sorry that my clumsy tweet has caused offence.” A Labour spokesperson reportedly said: “Barry has deleted the tweets and apologised. He deeply regrets the offence caused.”

It was further reported that Mr Sheerman had made a statement to his local Labour Party in which he wrote: “I was so angry I was intending to liken the places in the Lords as a ‘thirty pieces of silver’ type of reward. This alone is an unpleasant thing to say but I tried to be too clever and looked up the currency that might have been used 2,000 years ago, and found information suggesting it was the shekel. I used this in my comment. In a separate comment, I also chose two rich businessmen who have received negative press attention as examples of the types of people being raised to the Lords by the government. It never entered my head when I was making that comment that the two people I mentioned were Jewish. I can see how offensive my comments have been, given this, and I am profoundly sorry. It was never my intention to make any implication about Jewish people, and I am horrified that I inadvertently did so.”

On 3rd August 2020, it was reported that Mr Sheerman was unlikely to face action over his comments, and that he had said: “I did something silly but it was not anti-Semitism [sic].”

We do not know whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Mr Sheerman, and at the time of writing, on 9th August 2020, we have no record of any. However, the circumstances and outcomes of any such action would remain unknown, owing to the conditions of secrecy imposed by Baroness Chakrabarti’s report on antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In August 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to both Mr Sheerman and the Labour Party, but did not receive a response.


Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “bad”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 17th August 2020.