by Justin Cohen, reporting from the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester
A senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet has said the party opposes “general” boycotts of Israel but dismissed a Conservative move to block councils introducing politically motivated sanctions as “pure tory political mischief”
Conservative aides said the measure was a response to growing concern about the “militant actions of left-wing councils,” which they claimed was spurred on by the Labour leadership.
But Jon Trickett MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government told Jewish News: “This is pure Tory political mischief during their Party Conference. Labour is against general boycotts of Israeli goods and indeed academic boycotts.”
His words mark the first on boycotts from a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s top team since his election. But question marks still exist over whether opposition to general boycotts would still leave the door open to moves against West Bank settlements.
And while Corbyn said during the campaign he opposed academic measures, he later suggested Israeli universities involved in arms research – which would mean almost all – should come under the boycott.
The Government will amend pension legislation to make clear using pensions and procurement policies to pursue boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaigns against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate, unless they are in line with action on a national level. The same approach will be contained in new procurement policy guidance.
Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock said the action was intended to prevent the “playground politics” from councils.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark said: ³Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government working people want to see.”
Last November, Leicester City Council agreed a boycott on products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Sir Eric Pickles, Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary chairman said: “This move by the Government is very welcome. The attempt by the irresponsible left to demonise Israel is bad for British business, bad for the local taxpayer, and deeply damaging to community relations. It encourages anti-Semitism and strives to make a municipal foreign policy contrary to the interests of the UK.”