Why Lisa Nandy’s appointment as shadow foreign secretary is a cause for concern

Lisa Nandy
John McEvoy

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.

‘Labour Together’

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.

One of Labour Together’s other main donors is Martin Taylor – presumably the former Mayfair hedge fund manager who held stakes in Russian energy companies Gazprom and Lukoil.

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.

In the past, Chinn has also donated significant sums of money to former Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) chair Joan Ryan and former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

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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  • Show Comments
    1. Nandy is not a person of principle. Her position at the head of Labour Friends of Palestine is a typical careerist ploy: being all things to all people. She, like the other candidates for the leadership, accepted the 10 Board of Deputies’ pledges., thus permitting an unrepresentative outside body to make Labour Party policy. The pledges are totalitarian and effectively forbid Labour members to criticise the Israeli State or Zionism. The response to the B o D from the Labour leadership and the media has been that Jews are virtuous by definition: it cannot be that Jews are dissembling, manipulative, or downright dishonest. It cannot be that, like any other group, they may pursue their interests by distorting the facts. The idiocy of this is beyond credibility. A cursory knowledge of the history of Israel gives ample examples of Jewish mendacity. Marie van der Zyl of the B o D writing in response to Starmer’s sycophantic letter granting his absolute, uncritical acceptance of the 10 pledges says: “…history will not look kindly on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party where anti-Jewish racism has been allowed to run amok…” Running amok seems to be some 2,000 accusations of anti-Semitism among 500,000 members. Most of them unproven. However, if you want to see anti-Jewish hatred running amok, just read Theodor Herzl. This is what he wrote in Die Welt on 15th October 1897: “The Yid is a hideous distortion of the human character, something unspeakably low and repulsive…We’ll breathe more easily having got ourselves, once and for all, of these people who, with furtive shame, we were forced to treat as our fellow tribesmen.” Those are the words of the founder of Modern Zionism, the political creed which gave rise to and underpins the Israeli State. Anti-Jewish hatred is not the simple matter Ms van der Zyl presents it as. There is a long and disreputable history of Zionist anti-Semitism, and the phenomenon is alive and well. Hence the monstrous stupidity of empty-headed tv presenters calling Chomsky an anti-Semite. The simple truth is this: the Zionist will to a Jewish State in the whole of Palestine is totalitarian; and as John Kerry pointed out, Israel can’t be both a Jewish State and a democratic State. A theocracy is not a democracy. Nandy is a danger. She is morally and intellectually confused and driven by ambition. That she accepts money from Chinn ought to be called what it is: corruption. He is buying influence. What is democratic about that? By writing to van der Zyl last Saturday and fawning to placate, Starmer has brought racism to the core of the Labour Party. The B o D is an unquestioning apologist of the Israeli State and its plainly racist treatment of the Palestinians. By agreeing, as he has, that no criticism of either the Israeli State or Zionsim will be permitted in the Labour Party, that it will be deemed anti-Semitism, Starmer has committed his Party, without reference to conference, to the totalitarian, racist mentality of Zionism as practised by the Israeli State since 1948. This could not be more serious. It is as if Harold Wilson would have guaranteed that any Labour critic of South African apartheid would be expelled. Why is Zionist apartheid acceptable? Because the Zionists make use of what Finkelstein correctly analyses as The Holocaust Industry to paint Jews as eternal victims and anyone who dares to criticise them no better than Nazis. This is a disgrace to the memory of those slaughtered by the Nazis. Starmer has fallen in with this. He has lost all moral and intellectual courage in this instance. The result will be that at the slightest hint of a criticism of Israel, the B o D, the CST, BICOM, LFI, will cry, “Anti-Semitism”. Their dishonesty and manipulation has to be faced down. But Starmer and Nandy won’t do it. Starmer has sold Labour’s soul to racists in the hope they will cease to criticise and he can be PM. He is thoroughly naive. These are the people who keep 1.8 million Palestinians imprisoned in the Gaza Strip because they are Arabs. Does he think they are honest, honourable people? Remember Sabra and Shatila? That’s what these people are capable of. They have him by the throat and they won’t let go. But they have no control over us, we aren’t afraid and we aren’t going away.

    2. What a load of inane crap, Lisa Nandy is an experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent and highly qualified politician, who puts people first.
      She does not need manufactured baseless criticism, give her a chance to do her job.

    3. Trevor Chinn has made multiple donations to Labour MPs. He is a capitalist who made his fortune from Lex Motors and subsequently bought the RAC. He is a firm supporter of Israel and its policies towards the Palestinians.
      On 22/12/2014 he donated £5,000 to David Lammy, on 21/3/2016 £10,000 to Ivan Lewis, on 22/8/2016 £12,000 to Owen Smith on 27/2/2017 £10,000 to Tom Watson, the first of at least six donations, most for £5,000, on 18/3/2019 £5,000 to Ian Austin, on 29/4/2019 £5,000 to Liam Byrne, on 15/5/2019 £5,000 to Rachel Reeves on 7/11/2019 another £5,000 to Liam Byrne. But, on 15/2/2019 he donated £5,000 to the Lib Dems.
      Anyone who imagines those MPs will put their constituents before their financial benefactors is naive. Chinn is buying influence, like all his kind. That is why great disparities of wealth are an outrage to democracy. The rich have far more influence over government policy than the voters. These Labour MPs are in hock to a capitalist who supports Israel’s apartheid regime which superexploits the Palestinians. How can they stand for justice and equality? No one who does could accept money from Chinn. You wouldn’t see Corbyn accepting his money, even if it were offered.
      And what about the donation to the Lib Dems? Chinn has no loyalty to Labour, let alone to principles of justice and equality. He is a capitalist circumventing democracy and an apologist for Israeli oppression buying the compliance of Labour MPs.

    4. The Jewish Chronicle (or as some prefer to call it, chronic liar) is going into voluntary liquidation due to Covid 19; but not before giving a platform today to Lord Mendelsohn who peddles the usual lies about Corbyn and insinuates that the entire left is anti-Semitic. In case you’ve forgotten (and he’s the kind of man it’s easy and good to forget) he was a co- founder of Lawson Lucas and Mendelsohn in the late 90s, a lobbying firm which claimed easy access to New Labour. They were stung when Greg Palast posed as a businessman wanting to buy influence and was offered introductions to whoever he liked in the NL hierarchy (a truly low place). LLM also famously saved Tesco £40 million by lobbying against a proposed supermarket car park tax. Mendelsohn was appointed Director of General Election Resources for NL in 2007. Needless to say he’s very rich. Needless to say he’s a Zionist apologist. Needless to say he’s glad Starmer is in charge. He’s the kind of man who believes the rich should buy their way to government influence and the people should know their place.
      Starmer in the same edition promises to deal swiftly with outstanding cases of alleged anti-Semitism (remember that according to this twisted eschatology Chris Williamson is a racist but Louise Ellman isn’t, though she is right behind Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and offers no solution but the non-solution of two states, which Israel of course has rejected for 45 years). You can be sure what Starmer means is summary expulsion. Due process? Forget it. The man wants power and the innocent will be sacrificed.

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