Antisemitism in Political Parties

Mike Amesbury

2017-present: Labour Member of Parliament for Weaver Vale

2020-present: Shadow Minister of State for Housing and Planning

2018-2020: Shadow Minister for Employment

Incidents

  1. On 18th November 2013, Mike Amesbury shared an image on Facebook (originally from an account whose output consists principally of conspiracist material) which showed a grinning, hook-nosed man with curling side-locks rubbing his hands together. The figure sported a Father Christmas outfit, but where the hat was emblazoned with the symbol known as the ‘Eye of providence’ which features in numerous conspiracy theories, but is particularly associated with the so-called ‘Illuminati’. The text accompanying the image urged its viewers to “Remember to support the banks and corporations this Christmas in their continued efforts to enslave mankind, by spending money you haven’t got on things you don’t need.” The image originally accompanied an article from a site called “Illuminati Agenda”.
  1. On 4th July 2020, Mr Amesbury retweeted (and shortly afterwards deleted) a tweet originally posted by fellow MP Steve Reed in which the latter had written: “Is millionaire former porn-baron Desmond the puppet-master for the entire Tory [email protected] Jenrick @PritiPatel”. It had been reported that day that, before becoming Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP had been lobbied by Richard Desmond, who is Jewish, over the matter of relaxing lottery regulations. It had previously been reported that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, had been lobbied by Mr Desmond over a matter of property development.

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Mr Amesbury’s actions amount to breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology. 

Whilst the term “Illuminati” originally referred to a short-lived Enlightenment-era fraternal organisation, it has come to be associated with a variety of conspiracy theories, all of which allege that the “Illuminati” infiltrated the ranks of European Jewish bankers in the nineteenth century. These theories variously assert that the bankers, Jews and Illuminati were behind the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of the Federal Reserve system in the United States, later forming the influential American think tank Council on Foreign Relations and subsequently what the far-right refers to as the New World Order, under whose control institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union are imagined to be. By sharing an image which suggested that global banks and corporations were involved in “efforts to enslave mankind”, linked to the so-called “Illuminati”, and which additionally displayed a stereoypically antisemitic caricature, in which Jews are depicted as quasi-demonic, with long, hooked noses [1]; and by retweeting the suggestion that a Jewish businessman was the “puppet-master” of the Conservative cabinet, thereby employing an antisemitic trope with a long history, having been, for example, deployed during the Nazi era and more recently being frequently evoked to demonise Jewish financiers [2], he was disseminating material which 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.”

Outcome

On 12th March 2019, Mr Amesbury was reportedly challenged on Twitter about the post, and claimed: “I did not share this vile nonsense and never would.”

On 13th March 2019, Mr Amesbury apologised on Facebook, writing: “I apologise unreservedly for this terrible error. I genuinely don’t recall sharing this image and I’m mortified that I did so. This appalling image contains an antisemitic caricature and a reference to the “illuminati” conspiracy theory. I would never have intentionally shared such antisemitic tropes and I am sincerely sorry that I did.” He also tweeted that he had requested a meeting with the representative of a Jewish charity, asking them to pass on his “most sincere apologies to the whole of the Jewish community” for what he called his “regrettable error.”

We do not know whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Mr Amesbury, and at the time of writing, on 6th July 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 July 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to both Mr Amesbury and the Labour Party, but did not receive a response.

Rating

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 22nd July 2020.