On 5 April, Keir Starmer named Wigan MP Lisa Nandy as Labour’s shadow foreign secretary. The appointment was met with surprise and confusion. Nandy, who had campaigned for revolutionising British towns throughout the leadership election, is now charged with directing the party’s foreign policy.
Nandy’s past ties, sources of funding, and voting record raise major questions about her appointment.
Nandy’s leadership campaign slogan “We win together” seemed to hark back to a curiously-funded campaign group.
According to Companies House, Nandy is co-director of campaign group Labour Together. The group was incorporated in 2015 by John Clarke, who is also a former director of Blue Labour Limited. Nandy was appointed to Labour Together on 31 March 2016, and the campaign was launched in May that year.
According to the New Statesman, Labour Together is an attempt to bridge the gap between “New Labour and Blue Labour”. As The Canary reported previously, Blue Labour “favours social conservatism but centre-left economics”.
One of Labour Together’s co-directors is Trevor Edwin Chinn; he was appointed on the same day as Nandy. Chinn is a member of the executive committee of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) which, according to Electronic Intifada, is a “British pro-Israel lobby group”.
In 2009, the Guardian reported on BICOM, saying:
Britain’s most active pro-Israeli lobbying organisation – which flies journalists 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.
Chinn is not only a co-director of Labour Together. According to the Electoral Register, he is one of the campaign group’s main donors. Since 2017, he has donated a total of £35,000 to the group.
Chinn has also privately donated to Nandy since she first became an MP in 2010. In September 2016, shortly after Nandy and Chinn were appointed co-directors of Labour Together, Chinn appears to have donated over £10,000 to Nandy in separate instalments.
Labour Together’s other directors include Jon Cruddas, named in 2017 as an LFI supporter, and Morgan McSweeney, who was yesterday named as Starmer’s Chief of Staff. Curiously, McSweeney is also one of the directors of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). Despite the non-British spelling, the centre is a registered British company which shares its address with Labour Together in East Finchley, London. According to its website, the CCDH’s only patron is Rachel Riley, who has notoriously campaigned to shut down independent news sites and branded Jewish intellectual Noam “Chomski” (i.e. Chomsky) an antisemite.
Friend of Palestine?
While working with and receiving funds from pro-Israel lobbyists, Nandy has been “vice chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East [LFPME] for 7 years and chair of the organisation for the last year”.
In a recent Medium post, Nandy said:
We cannot allow the continued selling of arms to Israel, the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, the blockade of Gaza and for Palestinian refugees to be denied their rights. I am committed to ensuring that Palestinian rights are protected and international law is respected.
While welcome, these words do not seem to square with a recent answer Nandy gave to Robert Peston. The ITV presenter asked:
Do you regard it as antisemitic to describe Israel, its policies, or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact. Is that an antisemitic statement?
Nandy responded: “Yes”.
In another interview with the BBC‘s Andrew Neil, Nandy seemed to suggest that to “condemn Israeli military atrocities in the West Bank” was somehow ‘antisemitic’. In other words, according to this warped logic, it’s antisemitic to describe the Israeli state’s apartheid policies and alleged acts of ethnic cleansing as racist.
According to an anti-racism fellow at the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, moreover, LFPME “has died under Lisa Nandy’s leadership. Staff gone, activities nonexistent, Palestinians voices erased”. As The Canary reported previously, the LFPME website suggests very little activity under Nandy’s leadership. Its most recent ‘Update’, for example, was published back in December 2018, shortly after Nandy’s appointment as chair. Prior to December 2018, the website posted ‘Updates’ frequently.
On other issues
Elsewhere, Nandy has voted a mixture of for and against “use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas”. Notably, this record includes Nandy voting “to support the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya” in 2011 – part of a wider military campaign which led to the return of open slave markets to the country.
In January, Nandy described the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 as “catastrophic”, and urged world leaders to “stand up to Trump”. But the same month, she suggested that the UK government “look to Catalonia” for lessons on how to “defeat Scottish nationalism”, which some took as a reference to the Spanish police’s brutal crackdown on pro-independence protesters.
In short, although we’re yet to see Nandy’s full foreign-policy positions, it seems likely that her new appointment signifies an important shift away from the Corbyn-era commitment to anti-imperialism.
Featured image via screengrab/BBC News
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