Labour donor’s ‘stormtroopers’ slur to be probed by party

Labour donor’s ‘stormtroopers’ slur to be probed by party

Michael Foster's controversial comments came after he'd spent thousands on legal fees challenging Jeremy Corbyn's leadership

Michael Foster
Michael Foster

Controversial comments by Labour donor Michael Foster likening some supporters of Jeremy Corbyn to Nazi stormtroopers are being probed by the party.

Michael Foster spent thousands on legal fees last month in an unsuccessful challenge to the party’s decision to place Corbyn automatically on the upcoming leadership ballot.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Foster said: “This decision advantaged Corbyn and his Sturm Abteilung (stormtroopers).”

The comments, condemned by the Board of Deputies, drew complaints including from Jewish Voice and Gary Spedding, a lobbyist on the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has since been informed by the general secretary’s office that the issue has been referred to a national executive committee panel.

Spedding wrote: “If Ken Livingstone can be (rightly) suspended from the party for his irresponsible and offensive commentary on Israel, Hitler, Zionism and the Nazis then surely Michael Foster must now also be immediately suspended pending a thorough investigation.”

The article in the Mail drew widespread condemnation from the Jewish community this week, including from Rhea Wolfson, a Labour National Executive Committee candidate, who called it “disgusting”.

She tweeted: “Chakrabarti had many clear messages, one important one was: no more Nazi analogies. Never appropriate, never acceptable.”

Similarly, Marie van der Zyl, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “We have often made the point that Nazi and Holocaust comparisons are inflammatory and should be avoided in political discourse. The same is true in this case.”

However, she added that “many in the community are deeply concerned at some of the language and behaviour being exhibited by some Labour members,” saying the party still had “a very steep hill to climb”.

Foster, whose family has given £400,000 to Labour, added: “If you are, like me, a Jewish donor to Labour, you are smeared as a Blairite conspirator, plotting to falsely use the accusation of anti-Semitism to damage the Left.”

In the opinion piece, Foster said Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into anti-Semitism was “anything but independent” and accused shadow chancellor John McDonnell of “bullying,” before turning on Corbyn’s chief strategist Seamus Milne.

“Oppose them as a Jewish donor and the riposte from Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s mouthpiece, is that you are part of a Blairite, right-wing ‘conspiracy’ (the ancient racist rhetoric is that Jews don’t act alone, the malevolent Jew always conspires) to destabilise the democratically and legitimately elected leader.”

Foster told the Jewish News: “You will note that my words are exactly those, and mirror those, stated as a justification for his use of the language by Ken Livingstone. His assertions were in his instance historically untrue. Mine on the methodology of the SA are historically ‎correct.

“His words refererred to the Holocaust. My words specifically referred to the Nazi Leadership tactics in order to gain political control in Berlin in the 1930’s and compares those to the structures and policies put in place by the  Corbyn cadre of leaders.”

Saying the community was looking to how the Livingstone case is addressed “to establish the credibility of Corbyn’s claims ‎in standing strong against Anti-Semitism”, he added: “Hard to see that any consideration of these complaints to the NEC over my use of language could be considered before we see the colour of the investigation into Ken Livingstone.”

Foster came to national attention last year, in the immediate aftermath of Labour’s leadership battle, when he repeatedly shouted at Corbyn to “say the word Israel” during Corbyn’s address to Labour Friends of Israel.

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