Labour MP apologises for suggesting Israel funds Independent Group

Ruth George apologises after highlighting Luciana Berger’s links to Friends of Israel

A Labour MP has apologised for suggesting Israel could be secretly funding Luciana Berger and other MPs who quit the party on Monday citing unhappiness with Labour’s approach to tackling complaints of antisemitism.

Ruth George, the MP for High Peak, withdrew the comment and said she had no intention of invoking a conspiracy theory, when she responded to someone asking whether it was appropriate to say the seven departing MPs were “Israelis”.

The MP had written on Facebook: “Support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour ‘Friends of Israel’, of which Luciana [Berger] was chair, is possible and I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group’s financial backers are not being revealed.

“It’s important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy.”

After the comments were criticised, George said: “On my earlier response to a Facebook comment, I unreservedly and wholeheartedly apologise for my comment. I had no intention of invoking a conspiracy theory and I am deeply sorry that my ill-thought out and poorly worded comment did this. I withdraw it completely.”

Berger is a Jewish MP who cited her unhappiness with Labour’s approach to tackling antisemitism in the party as the major reason why she quit. She said she could not stay in a party that she felt was “institutionally racist”.

However, another of the MPs who quit, Angela Smith, was embroiled in a row over racism on Monday, when she appeared to refer to people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as having a “funny tinge”.

In a discussion on the extent of racism in the UK on BBC2’s Politics Live show, Smith said society needed to address the important debate rather than run away from it.

“The recent history of the party I’ve just left suggests that it’s not just about being black or a funny [partially inaudible], you know, different, from the BAME community,” she said.

Smith apologised several hours later. “I have seen the clip from Politics Live, I am very sorry about any offence caused and I am very upset that I misspoke so badly,” she said in a clip posted on Twitter.

“It’s not what I am, I am committed to fighting racism wherever I find it in our society.”


Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

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