Where have they been for the past five years? The first research of its kind on each of the new Shadow Cabinet members’ records on antisemitism
Sir Keir Starmer has selected his Shadow Cabinet, following his election as Leader of the Labour Party. During the tenure of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party became institutionally antisemitic, was investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism, and caused almost half of all British Jews to consider leaving the country.
In these unique circumstances, it is of interest to the Jewish community and the wider public what the members of the new Shadow Cabinet have said and done over the past five years in respect of Labour’s antisemitism crisis.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has analysed the records of every member of the new Shadow Cabinet in the first research of its kind, available in full below. We previously published our analysis of Sir Keir’s record.
The deepest stain on the records of each of the new members is their overall inaction during the years of Mr Corbyn’s leadership despite the Party’s descent into racism. They were bystanders when several Jewish colleagues were hounded out of the Party, and they stood by too when principled colleagues made the difficult decision to leave the Party because they could not countenance campaigning for the antisemite Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister, which all of the new members of the Shadow Cabinet did at the end of last year. Indeed some members of Sir Keir’s Shadow Cabinet served in Mr Corbyn’s. Collectively, they have a mountain to climb in order to reclaim the authority to speak out against antisemitism — or indeed any form of prejudice.
Some of Sir Keir’s Shadow Cabinet members have long records on antisemitism – whether positive, negative or mixed – but it is equally telling when their records are short, as it signifies just how little they did as their once fiercely anti-racist Party became mired in anti-Jewish hatred.
- Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader and Chair of the Labour Party
- Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Lisa Nandy, Shadow Foreign Secretary
- Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Home Secretary
- Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- David Lammy, Shadow Justice Secretary
- John Healey, Shadow Defence Secretary
- Ed Miliband, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary
- Emily Thornberry, Shadow International Trade Secretary
- Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary
- Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State of Health and Social Care
- Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Education Secretary
- Jo Stevens, Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary
- Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
- Luke Pollard, Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary
- Steve Reed, Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary
- Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Housing Secretary
- Jim McMahon, Shadow Transport Secretary
- Preet Kaur Gill, Shadow International Development Secretary
- Louise Haigh, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary (interim)
- Ian Murray, Shadow Scotland Secretary
- Nia Griffith, Shadow Wales Secretary
- Marsha De Cordova, Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary
- Andy McDonald, Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary
- Rosena Allin-Khan, Shadow Minister for Mental Health
- Cat Smith, Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement
- Lord Charlie Falconer, Shadow Attorney General
- Valerie Vaz, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
- Afzal Khan, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
- Lord Thomas McAvoy, Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Lords
- Nick Brown, Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Commons
- Baroness Angela Smith, Shadow Leader of the Lords
- Comment and conclusion
Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader and Chair of the Labour Party
Angela Rayner, who won election as Deputy Leader and has also been appointed Chair of the Labour Party, served as Shadow Education Secretary in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.
On 27th January 2015, she published an article both in the Morning Star and on the official website of Unison North West entitled: “Inside the Factory of Genocide.” In the article, describing a visit to Auschwitz, she referenced Norman Finkelstein’s controversial work The Holocaust Industry — in which the author argues that the American Jewish establishment exploits the Holocaust for political and financial gain — calling it “a seminal book”. On 28th November 2018, it was discovered by Twitter users that Ms Rayner had reposted her 2015 article on Facebook in January 2018, on Holocaust Memorial Day. It was also reported that Ms Rayner had apologised after the exposure of her Facebook post had caused outrage in the Jewish community, saying that “I regret the choice of quote I used to illustrate it, and now that I know more about the context I would not make that reference again. I apologise for what was a genuine misunderstanding, in what was always intended to be a message of solidarity with the Jewish community. This underscores the importance of engagement with the Jewish community to improve understanding about this issue.”
Towards the end of the summer of 2018, when Labour was mired in numerous controversies, including over adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism, Ms Rayner posted a tweet about the Labour Party being subject to “smears”. When questioned whether she was referring to antisemitism (as deniers of Labour’s antisemitism crisis routinely claim that the allegations of anti-Jewish racism in the Party are “smears”), Ms Rayner insisted that she was not referring to antisemitism but rather smears in general, but did not elaborate. She also deleted her original tweet.
It is not known whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Ms Rayner. In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put these matters to her, but did not receive a response.
However, Ms Rayner has also said, in 2018, that “antisemitism has no place in our politics” and that she felt “a little frustrated” with the slow implementation of the whitewash Chakrabarti report in antisemitism in the Labour Party. In an event with a Jewish communal group (which was criticised at the time for hosting her), Ms Rayner also said that “those who distort history by likening Hitler to Zionism are no longer welcome” in the Labour Party.
In 2019 Ms Rayner tweeted support for Luciana Berger when she faced deselection by her local party branch, but when Ms Berger was eventually hounded out of the Party, Ms Rayner nonetheless insisted that Labour was not institutionally antisemitic.
Ms Rayner rejected calls by a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee to abolish the EHRC after it announced its investigation following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
During her campaign for the deputy leadership, Ms Rayner said: “At my launch, the first line in the sand is antisemitism. Cross that line and you’re out. Apologies are worthless without action.” She also pledged to make Labour’s disciplinary process independent.
Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Anneliese Dodds was elected to the House of Commons in 2017 during Jeremy Corbyn’s first General Election campaign and served as his Shadow Treasury Minister.
She is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. She has also engaged with the local Jewish community in her constituency and condemned an antisemitic incident there. Ms Dodds described the mural that Mr Corbyn initially defended as “clearly antisemitic”, and called for the Party’s investigations into Dame Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin, who had both condemned antisemitism in the Labour Party, to be dropped.
However, Ms Dodds gave a lukewarm response when asked whether Labour should have an independent disciplinary process for antisemitism cases, preferring to express “empathy” and “solidarity” rather than discuss details, an approach she has taken on other occasions as well.
Lisa Nandy, Shadow Foreign Secretary
Lisa Nandy sat in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet in its first few months, but she, along with numerous colleagues, quit over internal Party disagreements, helping to prompt the 2016 leadership contest. She was, however, open to rejoining Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet thereafter if invited.
Ms Nandy has consistently spoken out against anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party and has acknowledged that a “particular sort of antisemitism has found its home on the far-left throughout history.” She added: “I have been a member of this party for twenty years, and what angers me most is the assertion that a person cannot be left wing and stand up to antisemitism — standing up to antisemitism is a core part of my values.”
She also criticised the handling of the revelations of historic antisemitic statements by Naz Shah in 2016 and opposed the readmission into Labour of the disgraced then-MP, Chris Williamson, in 2019, observing that “we have no right to pick and choose the type of racism we confront.”
Ms Nandy participated in an event at the Labour Party conference in 2019 that featured Omar Barghouti (appearing via video link), who rejects Israel as a Jewish State and is a prominent figure in the BDS movement, the tactics of which an overwhelming majority of Jews find intimidating. However, Ms Nandy left the room before Mr Barghouti spoke. More recently, Ms Nandy endorsed a troubling platform of policies issued by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which we have found to be riddled with bigotry, and reportedly backed the idea of a ban on arms sales to Israel.
During her bid for the Party’s leadership, Ms Nandy made fighting antisemitism in Labour a central plank of her campaign, calling it “a crisis in the soul of our Party” and pledging to take “personal responsibility” for resolving it, including by introducing antisemitism training for members and staff and lowering the threshold for suspension over allegations of racism. She also promised to resolve cases swiftly and under a fixed timetable through an independent disciplinary process; prevent the readmission of prominent offenders and suspend those who supported or campaigned for them; implement the EHRC’s recommendations in full; relate to the Jewish community only through genuine representative organisations; and engage Labour’s Jewish affiliate to provide antisemitism training.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Home Secretary
Nick Thomas-Symonds served as Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Solicitor-General and as his Shadow Home Office minister.
Mr Thomas-Symonds defended and backed Labour’s controversial alternative code on antisemitism, which the Party briefly proposed in lieu of adopting the International Definition of Antisemitism, and he was also criticised for not expressly supporting the Government’s full proscription of Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation. Following Sir Keir Starmer’s election as Leader of the Labour Party, Mr Thomas-Symonds has clarified that he backs both the adoption of the Definition by the Party and the proscription of Hizballah by the Government.
He also campaigned for and congratulated the controversial Labour candidate Lisa Forbes, albeit that he did condemn her deeply problematic social media activity.
Mr Thomas-Symonds has previously tweeted in support of the Holocaust Educational Trust, about participating in Holocaust Memorial Day, and in response to the antisemitic Pittsburgh attack in the United States.
Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Rachel Reeves has been consistently critical of antisemitism in the Labour Party. In 2016 she spoke out against antisemitism in the Oxford University Labour Club and Israel Apartheid Week, as well as in Labour more generally, calling it a “growing issue”.
Ms Reeves also condemned threats against Luciana Berger, celebrated the reselection of Dame Margaret Hodge, both widely believed to have been targeted because they are Jewish women, signed a letter calling on Jeremy Corbyn to take action against the disgraced then-MP Chris Williamson, and joined Labour’s Jewish affiliate in solidarity with the Jewish community.
Following the 2019 General Election, Ms Reeves wrote to Labour’s Secretary-General, Jenny Formby, urging the expulsion of a member making “blatantly anti-semitic claims” on social media, and wrote to Ms Formby again to say that members accused of antisemitism should not vote in the Party’s leadership primary.
She also criticised deputy leadership candidates who did not make pledges to implement reforms within the Party to deal with antisemitism.
David Lammy, Shadow Justice Secretary
David Lammy was calling out antisemitism in the Labour Party already in 2017, and since then he attended a rally against Labour antisemitism and was threatened with deselection for doing so. He also supported the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party and defended it; condemned Jeremy Corbyn’s comments about “Zionists” and “English irony”; backed a letter to Mr Corbyn about ousting the disgraced then-MP Chris Williamson; and condemned the routine dismissals of antisemitism as “smears” (although oddly did it by retweeting Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, who had made such claims).
However, Mr Lammy also asked a Jewish caller to his radio show if he was putting personal concerns about antisemitism over the needs of the country (in a discussion about a ‘no-deal Brexit’) and became frustrated with a reporter for asking about antisemitism at Labour Live. Mr Lammy also backed Labour parliamentary candidate Ali Milani, who has made and apologised for antisemitic statements and called for Israel’s destruction.
Mr Lammy expressed his satisfaction that all Labour leadership candidates had pledged to address antisemitism in the Party, saying: “Tackling antisemitism must be the first priority of the next leader. No excuses.”
Most recently, he opposed an amendment in his local Constituency Labour Party to remove a clause in a motion that stated that the branch should adopt “a zero tolerance position” on antisemitism.
John Healey, Shadow Defence Secretary
John Healey served on Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench as Shadow Housing Secretary.
In 2018, Mr Healey defended Mr Corbyn’s handling of Labour’s antisemitism crisis, claiming that matters had improved, but in 2019 he conceded that “it is also clear that what is being done is not fast enough, it’s not tough enough, and I would like to see, to be honest, whether we could move to a position where we can suspend first then investigate such cases.”
He went on, however, to campaign for the controversial Labour candidate Lisa Forbes, despite her deeply problematic social media activity.
Before the 2019 General Election, Mr Healey apologised to the Jewish community, but reiterated his view that the disciplinary process was improving.
Ed Miliband, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary
Ed Miliband was Mr Corbyn’s predecessor as Leader of the Labour Party, and arguably it was during his term that some of the changes in the relationship between Labour and the Jewish community occured.
Although Mr Miliband made some positive interventions on the issue of antisemitism in the Party – for example tweeting against Ken Livingstone (of whom, however, he had previously said in 2012 “He doesn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body”), in support of Luciana Berger, and in condemnation of Labout’s inaction on Chris Williamson – observers were bemused at his apparent indifference to the Party’s antisemitism crisis, despite his previous references to being the son of Holocaust refugees.
He made clear that he would not follow Ms Berger in leaving Labour because he believed that Labour was a force for good in society and it was preferable to remain in the Party and work for zero tolerance of antisemitism, but he then went on to campaign for the controversial Labour candidate Lisa Forbes, despite her deeply problematic social media activity.
Emily Thornberry, Shadow International Trade Secretary
Emily Thornberry served as Shadow Foreign Secretary in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet and was at the forefront of the campaign to make him Prime Minister. She has consistently defended Mr Corbyn against charges of antisemitism. She has insisted that “there isn’t a racist or antisemitic bone in Jeremy’s body”, ludicrously opining that the reason that he was failing to act on antisemitism was because he was so upset at being called an antisemite himself, and has claimed that the Chief Rabbi was “wrong” to suggest that Mr Corbyn is an antisemite. At a 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day event, Ms Thornberry praised Mr Corbyn for “always calling out those people who play the race card”.
In 2017, Ms Thornberry addressed the collapse of relations between Britain’s Jews and the Labour Party over its antisemitism crisis by saying: “There is clearly a lot of work to be done between the Labour Party and the British Jewish community. And I am prepared to do whatever it takes in order to be able to open channels again and to see if we can sort this out.” She added, however, that: “We need a bit of movement on both sides.”
In 2018, Ms Thornberry listened quietly as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed at a conference that Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves through their “social behaviour, [charging] interest, and financial matters.” He also cited a theory often used by antisemites that modern-day Jews are in fact imposters from “Khazaria”. Rather than challenge him, Ms Thornberry posted on Facebook that it had been her “privilege” to represent the Labour Party at the conference. Only after being called out did she issue a statement criticising his “antisemitic remarks about the history of the Jewish community in Europe which were not just grossly offensive, but utterly ignorant”. In 2018, Ms Thornberry also accused the Israel Defence Forces of deliberately using enhanced ammunition designed for hunters to “do maximum internal damage to the animal”, a claim reminiscent of the blood libel.
During her unsuccessful campaign to lead the Labour Party, Ms Thornberry, whose husband’s family is Jewish, said that the Jewish community “wrongly” believed that a Labour government would have made them unsafe, but expressed her “disgust” that that is how Jews were made to feel by the Party. She later noted how a Jewish member of her staff reported that she could not go to family weddings and other occasions and publicise that she works for Labour, out of shame.
Despite her insistence during the Labour leadership campaign that tackling antisemitism is the “most urgent and immediate priority,” Ms Thornberry was nonetheless happy to meet with Alana Bates, the former local Labour candidate who described claims of antisemitism in Labour as “manipulative smears” and recorded a song with her band that called for the destruction of the Jewish state.
However, in 2017 Ms Thornberry described the BDS movement to boycott Israel, the tactics of which an overwhelming majority of Jews find intimidating, as “bigotry”, saying that the belief “that opposition to the policies of an individual government can ever justify a hatred of the nation and its people, or a boycott of its products, its culture or its academics, or a denial of its right to defend itself from military assault and terror attacks” is “bigotry against the Israeli nation” and that is “has never been justified and it never will be.”
In 2019, Ms Thornberry bucked pressure and called for the EHRC to proceed with its investigation into institutional antisemitic discrimination and victimisation within the Labour Party, which was launched following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
In 2020 during the leadership campaign, Ms Thornberry claimed that she made interventions in Shadow Cabinet meetings and other forums on the issue of antisemitism and she supported the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party while some of her colleagues did not. She also said that when she tried to raise the issue of antisemitism more generally she was told by Party superiors that it “wasn’t my business” and was told to stick to her foreign policy brief.
She agreed with Sir Keir Starmer that the litmus test for whether Labour had dealt with antisemitism would be whether Jewish former MPs like Dame Louise Ellman felt that they could return to the Party.
Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary
Jonathan Reynolds served as Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury for most of Jeremy Corbyn’s term as Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Reynolds wrote a piece in 2016 urging Jews to stay in Labour in 2016, and also claimed that both Mr Corbyn and his leadership rival Owen Smith wanted to deal with antisemitism in the Party.
He attended a rally of the Jewish community against antisemitism in the Labour Party and called for the suspension of Labour’s disciplinary chief Christine Shawcroft after she reportedly opposed the suspension from the Labour party of a Holocaust denier. However, he also campaigned for Ruth George, an MP with a problematic record, in her unsuccessful bid to remain in Parliament.
Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State of Health and Social Care
Jonathan Ashworth is set to remain in the same post that he held in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.
Mr Ashworth has called for zero-tolerance and expulsions in connection with Labour antisemitism, has apologised when Mr Corbyn has been criticised for failing to act, and has conceded that Labour needed to go further and faster. But he has also clearly tried to tread a line between speaking up against antisemitism and publicly supporting Mr Corbyn.
He supported the Party’s adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism, was publicly supportive of Luciana Berger early on when she was targeted for being a Jewish woman MP, but he relaxed his support once she had left Labour.
He did, however, pay tribute to Ian Austin, who also left Labour over antisemitism, and said that he had proposed reforms to address the antisemitism crisis.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Education Secretary
Rebecca Long-Bailey served as Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and was an avid supporter of his ideology and leadership, which she recently rated “ten out of ten”.
Despite representing a constituency — Salford and Eccles — with a Jewish population, Ms Long-Bailey reportedly showed little awareness of issues important to the community in her first few months in office. This lack of awareness apparently spread to the media as well, as Ms Long-Bailey gave an interview to the controversial far-left website, The Canary, subsequently explaining that she was “not aware of concerns about The Canary at the time” of the interview. Lord Mann, the Government’s independent advisor on antisemitism, has since announced that he will be investigating The Canary and other far-left websites in relation to the rise in antisemitism.
When it was revealed that Mr Corbyn had written a gushing foreword to a reissue of J.A. Hobson’s 1902 work, Imperialism: A Study, in which the author cast the blame for great wars on the Rothschild family, which was once predominantly Jewish, and their supposed control of the media — Mr Corbyn described the book as “correct and prescient” — Ms Long-Bailey defended him.
Ms Long-Bailey was also said to have opposed the adoption by the Labour Party of the International Definition of Antisemitism, opting instead to back the infamous “code” on antisemitism that was floated by Party insiders as an alternative to the Definition in order to dilute it. She later claimed that the Jewish community was meant to be consulted on the code but when it transpired that it had not been, she no longer supported it, although that claim has been met with scepticism.
During her failed bid for the leadership of the Party, Ms Long-Bailey claimed that she spoke out on antisemitism in internal Labour meetings over the past few years and that if she were elected leader she would work “very hard and very robustly” to tackle antisemitism in the Party. She added that “I wasn’t happy with the way our process was being run.” Such comments echo those of her most prominent backer, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, whose persistent references to “process” during the General Election represented an effort to deflect attention from the reality that the Party was home to large numbers of antisemites and an antisemitic leadership. In any event, Ms Long-Bailey’s claim to have spoken out on antisemitism behind the scenes has been disputed.
Indeed, Ms Long-Bailey was accused by a fellow MP of being “partly responsible for the failure of Labour to stem the tide of antisemitism within its ranks.” The MP went on to say: “How she can now claim to be concerned about an issue that cost us the election — it’s staggering hypocrisy.”
Jo Stevens, Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary
Jo Stevens served briefly as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.
As a backbench MP, she called for the suspension of the disgraced then-MP Chris Williamson, and also called for Ken Livingstone’s expulsion tweeting: “Suspension never appropriate sanction where there’s no apology nor a promise not to repeat remarks. NCC [National Constitutional Committee] decision right. Sanction wrong.”
However, although Ms Stevens agreed that Labour needed to tackle antisemitism, she described the resignation from the Party by Luciana Berger and others over antisemitism the day after Labour MP Paul Flynn’s death as “a bit disrespectful”.
Ms Stevens was also supportive of the controversial Labour candidate Lisa Forbes, despite her deeply problematic social media activity, and has tweeted in support of Hugh Lanning of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which we have found to be riddled with bigotry.
Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Bridget Phillipson has recently disclosed that she felt compromised by staying in the Party despite antisemitism.
In 2016, she reportedly told Jeremy Corbyn to resign at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, although this was more likely to have been over Brexit than antisemitism.
In 2018, Ms Phillipson called for action on antisemitism, and in 2019 she said that Labour’s antisemitism problem needed intervention from the top and that another investigation by a lawyer – in this case Lord Falconer – would not “get us anywhere” because “the problems are not procedural, or legal. They are political.” In particular, she noted that at least one figure on the Party’s ruling National Executive Committee simply did not belong there and that no amount of antisemitism training would resolve that.
Ms Phillipson said that she was “sad” to see Luciana Berger and other colleagues resign from Labour over antisemitism but insisted that she herself would not leave the Party.
Luke Pollard, Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary
Luke Pollard served as Shadow Minister for Flooding & Coastal Communities under Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Pollard has posted numerous tweets about the need to take action on antisemitism, including supporting the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party; criticising Ken Livingstone and calling for his expulsion; supporting a demonstration by the Jewish community against Labour antisemitism; supporting Labour’s Jewish affiliate; and supporting Sir Keir Starmer’s prioritisation of tackling antisemitism during his leadership campaign.
Mr Pollard has also tweeted his support for Mr Corbyn’s periodic statements on antisemitism.
Mr Pollard opposed the readmission of the disgraced then-MP Chris Williamson, but he did campaign for the controversial Labour candidate Lisa Forbes, despite her deeply problematic social media activity.
Steve Reed, Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary
Steve Reed served in junior shadow ministerial roles under Jeremy Corbyn but has tweeted in support of Labour’s Jewish affiliate and of calls for action on antisemitism, including the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party. Mr Reed also supported the launch of the EHRC’s investigation into Labour antisemitism, which was launched following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
On the victory of the controversial Labour candidate Lisa Forbes in the Peterborough by-election in 2019, Mr Reed took a more nuanced position than some of his colleagues who had campaigned for her, noting only that he was pleased that the Brexit Party had been defeated.
During the recent Labour leadership primary, Mr Reed supported the candidates’ declarations that they consider themselves to be ZIonists and welcomed Sir Keir Starmer’s apology to the Jewish community on behalf of the Labour Party following his election as Leader.
Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Housing Secretary
Thangam Debbonaire has posted numerous tweets supportive of the Jewish community and against antisemitism in Labour, including insisting that the Party work with the EHRC on its investigation into Labour antisemitism, which was launched following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Ms Debbonaire attended a rally against antisemitism in the Labour Party and was heckled by her local Constituency Labour Party for doing so, causing her to bravely storm out of the meeting in protest. She also claims to have helped to remove an antisemitic mural from Bristol’s city centre.
She has tweeted in support of the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party and defended it against critics.
Ms Debbonaire apparently joined Labour’s Jewish affiliate in solidarity with the Jewish community, and, when asked why she would not quit Labour in protest over anti-Jewish racism, she replied that she refused to cede the Party to antisemitism.
Jim McMahon, Shadow Transport Secretary
Jim McMahon served as Shadow Minister of State for Local Government under Jeremy Corbyn.
He wrote to the Co-operative Party’s National Executive Committee to recommend the adoption of proposals made by Jewish organisations to tackle antisemitism in Labour.
He also questioned the circumstances in which Shami Chakrabarti received a peerage following her whitewash report into antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Preet Kaur Gill, Shadow International Development Secretary
Preet Kaur Gill served as Shadow Minister for International Development under Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms Kaur Gill attended a rally against antisemitism in the Labour Party and chaired a meeting on antisemitism with prominent Jewish organisations and personalities, along with the Crown Prosecution Service. She went on, however, to congratulate Lisa Forbes, despite her deeply problematic social media activity.
In hindsight, she recognised that antisemitism was an issue in the General Election, but she was less robust prior to the election, deflecting criticism of Labour by tweeting that there is antisemitism and racism in other political parties too.
Louise Haigh, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary (interim)
Louise Haigh served as a Shadow Minister under Jeremy Corbyn in various posts.
Ms Haigh has called for more action on antisemitism and met with Jewish organisations and personalities to discuss contemporary manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred.
She also expressed solidarity with Luciana Berger and supported the referral of the disgraced then-MP Chris Williamson to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee.
However, her involvement in the Peterborough by-election on behalf of Labour’s candidate, Lisa Forbes, despite her deeply problematic social media activity (Ms Haigh said that Ms Forbes had “mistakenly engaged in” antisemitic tweets), while claiming that she cared about antisemitism was branded “the very definition of hypocrisy”.
Ms Haigh said that calling Israel an apartheid state is antisemitic but called for sanctions to be imposed against it.
Ian Murray, Shadow Scotland Secretary
Ian Murray criticised Jeremy Corbyn for his inaction over deselection threats against the Jewish MP, Luciana Berger; called for the then-MP Chris Williamson to be suspended; and condemned Labour’s treatment of the Panorama whistleblowers, who helped to expose the depth of the Party’s institutional antisemitism.
During his recent bid to become Labour’s Deputy Leader, Mr Murray made tackling antisemitism a key part of his campaign. He said that Labour could no longer bury its head in the sand, that “I want antisemitism cases on my desk every week as Deputy Leader”, and that he wished to work with the Jewish community. He further tweeted that he would take “personal responsibility for rooting out this cancer” and pledged: “if it’s not done under my watch I’ll resign. I’m so angry about this. Everyone saying they will deal with it – well what have they been doing over the past three-and-a-half years?”
Nia Griffith, Shadow Wales Secretary
Nia Griffith served for several years as Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Defence Secretary.
She also congratulated Lisa Forbes, despite her deeply problematic social media activity.
However, Ms Griffith also supported a rally by the Jewish community against antisemitism in the Labour Party (although she did say that what was needed was “deeds not words” but then continued to sit inertly in the Shadow Cabinet); called for the suspension of the then-MP Chris Williamson; called for stronger sanction against Ken Livingstone; supported Dame Margaret Hodge; said that Labour was at a crisis point over the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism; spoke up for an activist who was receiving abuse online for calling out antisemitism in the Labour Party; and urged Labour’s leadership to apologise to the Jewish community after the courageous intervention by the Chief Rabbi.
Marsha De Cordova, Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary
Marsha De Cordova served as Shadow Minister for Diasbled People under Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms De Cordova does not appear to have been particularly engaged on the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party, other than tweeting an article by Mr Corbyn pledging to act.
She has, however, engaged with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which we have found to be riddled with bigotry.
Andy McDonald, Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary
Andy McDonald served as Shadow Transport Secretary in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.
A particularly fervent member of Labour Friends of Palestine, Mr McDonald has falsely accused Israel of wilful massacre of unarmed civilians and has also been forced to deny making a comparison between Israel and the Nazi regime in a remark defending his advisor, Karl Hansen, who had described Israel as an apartheid state. Mr Hansen had also accused the Jewish television personality and anti-extremism campaigner, Rachel Riley, of smearing political opponents as antisemites.
Mr McDonald defended Mr Corbyn over the infamous antisemitic mural in Tower Hamlets and falsely claimed that the Party was dealing with antisemitism. He also retweeted a dubious story from Rachael Swindon, the Twitter account of the controversial Labour activist Rachael Cousins, who has reportedly accused a Jewish charity of being “Conservative backers” and called on it to “condemn all atrocities by the Israeli military in the West Bank”, thus holding Jews collectively responsible for perceived injustices committed by Israel.
Mr McDonald said that he ‘respectfully disagreed’ with the Chief Rabbi’s criticism of Labour’s handling of antisemitism and tweeted after the General Election that “I have never experienced a General Election when a good and decent, principled man has been so vilified and demonised.”
Recently, Mr McDonald became one of the very last sitting MPs to sign up to the International Definition of Antisemitism.
Rosena Allin-Khan, Shadow Minister for Mental Health
Rosena Allin-Khan served as Shadow Minister for Sport under Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms Allin-Khan has written about being a victim of antisemitic abuse, which she received after engaging with Israeli diplomats in the UK, even though she met them to criticise Israeli Government policy. She also posted a strange series of tweets on the issue.
In June 2019 she called for an independent disciplinary process to deal with antisemitism cases.
In her campaign to become Labour’s Deputy Leader, she made tackling antisemitism a priority, pledging to act and to implement the recommendations of the EHRC when it concludes its investigation into Labour antisemitism, which was launched following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Cat Smith, Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement
Cat Smith served as Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons under Jeremy Corbyn.
In 2016, Ms Smith called out some antisemitism on Twitter directly.
She has recognised that there is antisemitism in Labour and has encouraged her Twitter followers to learn about antisemitism by sharing Labour’s webpage on the subject
Ms Smith has also said: “I have a Jewish family, my husband is Jewish and my child is Jewish. There are people in the Labour Party that hold antisemitic views and express them and the party has not been able to react fast enough to expel these people.” Ms Smith’s husband works for the Labour Party as its Head of Digital Organising and is a former head of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which we have found to be riddled with bigotry.
Lord Charlie Falconer, Shadow Attorney General
Lord Falconer has repeatedly stated how great a problem antisemitism is in the Labour Party, tweeting numerous times in despair about Labour’s antisemitism crisis and saying that there are thousands of antisemites in the Party.
He even agreed, at the invitation of Labour headquarters, to lead yet another internal inquiry into antisemitism in the Party, years after the whitewash inquiry conducted by Baroness Chakrabarti, but he withdrew after the EHRC launched its investigation, following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
He eventually came around to the importance of an independent disciplinary process in 2019, having earlier opposed it, calling it “inevitable and necessary”.
Dame Margaret Hodge claimed that Lord Falconer bombarded her with calls encouraging her to apologise when she was ludicrously under investigation by the Party for calling out Jeremy Corbyn’s role in Labour’s antisemitism crisis. Lord Falconer insisted that he was doing so out of friendship with Dame Margaret and apologised “that she thought I pressed too hard.”
Valerie Vaz, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Valerie Vaz remains as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, having served in that role under Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms Vaz appears to have had almost nothing to say on Labour’s descent into institutional racism, with the exception of a 2018 apology to the Jewish community where she said that “I think it’s really regrettable that it has got this bad and I would want to apologise to the Jewish community for any offence that has been caused.”
However, in an earlier interview that day with BBC Radio 4, Ms Vaz accidentally praised antisemitism repeatedly. Asked to defend Mr Corbyn, she said: “He’s been steeped in antisemitism, anti-racism throughout his time. Basically the Jewish community does have roots in our Party. They have played a prominent role. We must make sure we continue to show people we are an antisemitic and anti-racist Party.”
While this might be regarded as an unfortunate slip, an alternative interpretation is that Ms Vaz has taken such little interest in how anti-Jewish racism captured her Party that she did not even properly understand what such racism is called.
Afzal Khan, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
Afzal Khan served as Shadow Minister of State for Immigration under Jeremy Corbyn.
In 2014, whilst serving as an MEP, Mr Khan tweeted a link to an article entitled, “The Israeli Government are acting like Nazi’s [sic] in Gaza.” Mr Khan’s use of the Nazi slur, in breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism, came despite his prominence in interfaith dialogue work. He is co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester and was awarded a CBE for his community and interfaith work in 2008. However, the Labour Party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership declined to investigate or discipline Khan when a complaint was later submitted.
In 2015, Mr Khan reportedly shared a video on Facebook (apparently originally posted by the virulently antisemitic Philip E. Taylor), the prominent text beneath which referred to “Israel-British-Swiss-Rothschilds crime syndicate” and “mass murdering Rothschilds Israeli mafia criminal liars”. When the post was uncovered in 2019, Mr Khan said that he was “mortified” for “accidentally” sharing the image, but he did not remove it for a further six months after apologising and only did so when a journalist asked why it was still on his page. Mr Khan also later disputed whether the post was antisemitic at all.
Regarding Ken Livingstone, Mr Khan condemned comments by the disgraced former Mayor of London but failed to agree that Mr Livingstone should have been expelled from the Labour Party.
In 2018, Mr Khan attended a rally against antisemitism but downplayed the fact that the demonstration’s focus was antisemitism in his Party, saying: “Yesterday I attended the ‘Say No to Antisemitism Rally’ to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community. The Labour Party and its leadership are and always have been anti-racist. We will always stand together to fight any form of racism in our Party or society.”
Mr Khan attended antisemitism training at his Constituency Labour Party delivered by Labour’s Jewish affiliate.
Lord Thomas McAvoy, Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Lords
Lord McAvoy will continue in his role as Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Lords, in which position he also served under Jeremy Corbyn.
Lord McAvoy did not join other peers in an advertisement that they took out which said that Mr Corbyn had “failed the test of leadership” over antisemitism, but he, along with Baroness Smith and others, did write directly to Mr Corbyn warning of the “cancer” of antisemitism and offering to help to set up an independent complaints process.
Nick Brown, Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Commons
Nick Brown, who also served as Shadow Chief Whip under Jeremy Corbyn, has had little to say on Labour’s antisemitism crisis.
In one instance in 2018, he acknowledged that there was “clearly an issue to be dealt with”, but he took the Party line in stressing that Labour was committed to doing so, even though it clearly was not.
In 2019 he wrote to the then-MP Chris Williamson urging him to cancel a showing of the film WitchHunt that he was organising in Parliament.
Baroness Angela Smith, Shadow Leader of the Lords
Baroness Smith served as Shadow Leader of the House of Lords under Jeremy Corbyn and will continue in her role under Sir Keir Starmer.
Baroness Smith supported Dame Margaret Hodge and also backed the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party.
She also apparently assisted Lord Levy in reporting an antisemitic e-mail that he had received to Mr Corbyn, who did not respond.
Baroness Smith did not join other peers in an advertisement that they took out which said that Mr Corbyn had “failed the test of leadership” over antisemitism, but she, along with Lord McAvoy and others, did write directly to Mr Corbyn warning of the “cancer” of antisemitism and offering to help to set up independent complaints process.
Comment and conclusion
Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism said, “This is the first research into the records of each member of the new Shadow Cabinet with regard to antisemitism.
“Our painstaking, fully-evidenced research shows that Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet includes figures who have fought a rearguard action for years against anti-Jewish prejudice in Labour, but it also contains parliamentarians who have contributed to or enabled that racism.
“The research is also a depressing reminder of just how little so many Labour MPs said about antisemitism over several years – and, moreover, how much less they actually did – even as it infested their once fiercely anti-racist Party. Every one of them campaigned last year for an antisemite to become Prime Minister.
“The makeup of the Shadow Cabinet illustrates that Jeremy Corbyn’s poisonous legacy of antisemitism has so permeated the Labour Party that there are too few untainted figures amongst its parliamentarians to fill even these few coveted posts.
“Some of Sir Keir’s appointments to his Shadow Cabinet are inconsistent with his pledge to tear antisemitism out of the Labour Party ‘by its roots’. This research shows just how deep those roots go and how much they have rotted his Party, and no amount of pruning can disguise how much work lies ahead.
“Our research suggests that Sir Keir may already be making factional compromises instead of showing zero tolerance. He will find his honeymoon short-lived if he delays the hard decisions and actions that are necessary.”
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
In the first release of its Antisemitism in Political Parties research, Campaign Against Antisemitism showed that Labour Party candidates for Parliament in the 2019 general election accounted for 82 percent of all incidents of antisemitic discourse by parliamentary candidates.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right. It also showed that prior to last year’s General Election, 42% of British Jews had considered leaving the UK, of which 85% cited antisemitism in politics, and close to two thirds of British Jews believed that the authorities, in general, are not doing enough to address and punish antisemitism.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.