Then-back bencher Abbott criticised ‘sheer nastiness’ and antisemitism – but now-peer Mandelson defended
This week, a number of Labour peers paid to advertise a letter attacking Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism. Among the signatories was Tony Blair’s former right-hand man, Peter Mandelson.
But while Corbyn’s critics claim antisemitism in the Labour Party is a recent phenomenon that reared its head only since Corbyn became party leader, Mandelson’s own history exposes the claim.
In 2005, Blair’s communications head Alastair Campbell was criticised for an ‘antisemitic’ poster campaign targeting the Jewish Tory leader Michael Howard – including one that showed Howard’s head on the body of a pig:
Diane Abbott, at the time a back-bench MP, wrote an article condemning Campbell’s posters as a symptom of an “aggressively macho” general election campaign and of a problem in the Labour Party.
But instead of denouncing the ‘Labour antisemitism’, Mandelson leaped to Campbell’s defence – publicly warning the BBC not to ‘demonise’ Campbell.
Louise Ellman, who has been at the forefront of claims Labour is now antisemitic, also equivocated, calling the poster ‘very insensitive’ and saying:
I do not think it is deliberately anti-semitic, but we should not have such posters.
Luciana Berger – another prominent current critic but then not yet a Labour MP – described the posters as ‘misguided’ and ‘wrong’.
Antisemitism has always existed in the Labour Party, just as it has existed in society. However, research by Jewish organisations showed that it is decreasing among Labour supporters.
It is certainly not a new phenomenon. The personal history of one of the peers signing this week’s letter demonstrates that beyond doubt – and casts further doubt on the motives behind the peers’ letter.
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