Keir Starmer received £50,000 donation from pro-Israel lobbyist in leadership bid

Keir Starmer
John McEvoy

CORRECTION: This piece was updated on 22 April at 16:00 to correct a mistake made in calculating the donations Owen Smith received in 2016

Recently published data shows Labour leader Keir Starmer received a £50,000 donation from pro-Israel lobbyist Trevor Chinn – information which was not disclosed until after polls had closed in the leadership election.

Donor transparency

Throughout the Labour leadership election, Starmer consistently refused to name the full list of those who donated to his campaign.

Starmer’s lack of transparency was challenged by fellow candidates. In February, Rebecca Long-Bailey published a full donor list of those who offered more than £1,500 to her campaign. Starmer, the front-runner, did not follow suit.

When challenged by Andrew Neil over his donations, Starmer stated he was following “Labour Party process” and that:

I’ve got a compliance team in place who are checking every donation is in accordance with the rules.

Once they’ve done that they pass it to the Parliamentary authorities for them to publish it. So two lots have gone up, another lot is with the Parliamentary authorities as of today, I’m following the rules.

Trevor Chinn

Data published on the Register of Members’ Interests now shows that Starmer received a £50,000 donation from Trevor Chinn, a member of the executive committee of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).

According to Electronic Intifada, BICOM is a “British pro-Israel lobby group”. The Guardian reported on BICOM in 2009, saying:

Britain’s most active pro-Israeli lobbying organisation – which flies journalists [including Guardian staff] to Israel on fact-finding trips and organises access to senior government figures – has received nearly £1.4m in two years from a billionaire donor whose father made a fortune manufacturing arms in Israel.

In 2009, the London-Palestine Solidarity group said BICOM had a key role in “laying the groundwork for Israel’s public justifications for the onslaught [on Gaza]”.

As Open Democracy reported in 2009, moreover, BICOM officials were among those involved in planning to pressure the Guardian to retract comparisons it made of Israel with apartheid South Africa. The report in Open Democracy continued:

Two months after the end of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, BICOM sent half a dozen journalists on a free trip to Tel Aviv to talk to Israeli defence analysts. The message BICOM wanted to get across was that they should pay more attention to Iran than to the Palestinians…

While BICOM’s work is entirely legitimate, it is by no means transparent. They never declare, for example, which journalists go on trips and who they meet. In the United States, AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] must register as a lobby and declare its activities. Over here, BICOM is simply a company registered at Companies House, and doesn’t make its work public.

Journalist Simon Childs, who went on one of such trips in 2017, concurred that “BICOM ‘simply dispenses with international legal principles as an explanatory framework'”. The only Palestinian refugee camp that featured on this BICOM tour was seen by Childs as a “speck on the horizon as we looked from Israel into Gaza – abstracted to the point of near-invisibility”.

Chinn has also previously donated to former Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) chair Joan Ryan and former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

As The Canary recently reported, Chinn has similarly donated to shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy on numerous occasions.

Overlap

There is also significant overlap between those who donated to opponents of Corbyn and those who donated to Starmer.

During 2016, the year that Owen Smith MP launched a leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, Chinn donated to Smith on four separate occasions. The donations totalled £27,000.

There is also overlap between Starmer’s donors and those who funded the break-away group of Independent MPs in 2019, including Paul Myners. As far back as 2015, when Starmer was first elected MP, Myners was already calling on him to run for leader.

Staggered donations

Starmer received business person Waheed Alli’s donation of £100,000 on 24 February, and accepted the donation on 23 March. Similarly, Starmer received Chinn’s donation on 26 February, and accepted the donation on 23 March.

According to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests Code of Conduct, “MPs must register within 28 days any interest which someone might reasonably consider to influence their actions or words as an MP”.

In accepting the donations in late March, Starmer was not required to register his interests until after the polls closed on 2 April. The Register of Members’ Interests shows that Chinn’s donation was registered on 9 April.

Long-Bailey, in comparison, generally accepted each donation on the day it was received.

Featured image via screengrab/BBC

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  • Show Comments
    1. I’m afraid that the biggest donor to KS, Martin Taylor shows to some of us our worst fears. . https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/about/people/martin-taylor/biography
      It is the multimillionaire, former chief executive of Barclays Bank, advisor to Goldman Sachs and the then Secretary of the Bilderberg Group conference, Martin Taylor, that Gordon Brown thought would be the perfect man to drastically reform the benefit systems.
      “The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a think tank that works hand-in-glove with the Labour government, has called for the private sector to take on a much greater role in the delivery of key public services. Its report Building Better Partnerships insists there should be no ideological barriers to private sector involvement in “core” public services such as clinical and intermediate health care, the management of education and local government services.

    2. Well he can’t be called an anti-semite can he. Re the other donations you might as well accept that you can’t roll back the clock to a fully socialist state. It ain’t gonna happen. Corbyn tried and look where it got him. 4 failed elections. The knack now will be to properly control capitalism, which as far as the UK is concerned in stopping the rich dumping their stash in tax free havens. UK has more than any other country, that would be a start. After that take the cap of NI conts. That would be a good start

      1. It was the Zionists, aka Israel who did for Corbyn because of his attitude to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. So we had a foreign state openly interfering with the UK election process, aided by members of the government. Are these latter group not guilty of a crime such as treason?

    3. Well. That’s Kier Starmer bought and paid for then. Now we know he’s another Zionist pawn in Whitehall. Can we have Jeremy back please? Next time he’ll be smarter and axe all the Tony B’Liar faction at the Party level and recall all the MPs that do not openly and fully support his leadership. Better a Real Labour Party that this p*ss poor Tory Lite mob pulling strings and back stabbing behind the curtains.

        1. That’s the one. A 2017 poll by the Independent found him to be less popular than Corbyn, and one of the most unpopular politicians in our history: “While one in three people (33 per cent) has a favourable opinion of Mr Corbyn, and 60 per cent an unfavourable one, Mr Blair’s ratings are even more bleak, at 21 per cent and 72 per cent respectively.” That’s after winning three elections in which he established his credentials as Thatcher’s greatest legacy and Britain’s most egregious warmonger, which its why he’s now as despised as he is.

    4. “I’ve got a compliance team in place who are checking every donation is in accordance with the rules”.

      To paraphrase the Pirate Captain in “Pirates of the Caribean” movie, “Rules? Rules? They’re not so much rules as ‘guidelines”, to which his crew have a good laugh.

      1. As The legless RAF pilot Douglas Bader said: “Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools”. That came for his World War One pilot boss.
        Wise men know which rules, and when, have to be obeyed. It’s a question of common sense.

    5. So much for democracy. This is how our rights are mocked. All the research, and there is a mountain, shows the rich have greater influence over government policy than the voters. Chinn has just bought his way to influence over the leadership of Labour. He has made donations to Liam Byrne, Rachel Reeves, Ian Austin, Owen Smith, Ivan Lewis, David Lammy, Tom Watson at least six times, Conservative Friends of Israel and the Lib Dems. Starmer is compromised. He daren’t now say a true word about Israel. Watch how he responds to Trump’s belief that the Israelis should be allowed to annex the West Bank. Every democrat should be appalled. This is tantamount to fascism. When do the rights of the Palestinians get heard? In the Big Brother world of Zionism, the Palestinians are the proles, and as Orwell said, no one listens to the proles. Within the Labour Party nothing serious can be done. We need a movement of the common folk, funded by the common folk, well clear of the corrupt influence of the rich. A movement for genuine democracy and openness. Look at Chinn’s withdrawal of money from the Tricycle Theatre because of their refusal of Israeli funding. This is an effort at total control. As Voltaire remarked: “If you want to know who controls you, ask who you aren’t allowed to criticise.” Who aren’t we allowed to criticise? The Zionists.

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