Len McCluskey sorry for telling Peter Mandelson to ‘count his gold’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Len McCluskey sorry for telling Peter Mandelson to ‘count his gold’

Union boss criticised for allegedly using 'antisemitic trope' during Newsnight interview in which he hit out at Tony Blair's former close ally

Tali is a reporter at Jewish News

Len McCluskey (Photo credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)
Len McCluskey (Photo credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

Len McCluskey has apologised after suggesting Lord Peter Mandelson, should “go into a room and count his gold”, with Jewish leaders branding it an “antisemitic trope”.

The Unite union’s general secretary, a leading ally of Jeremy Corbyn, made his comments on BBC Newsnight after reporter Lewis Goodall told him that former cabinet minister Lord Mandelson had been “nothing but full of praise for Keir Starmer” in an interview.

Len McCluskey responded: “I stopped listening to what Peter Mandelson said many, many years ago. I would suggest Peter just goes into a room and counts his gold. Not worrying about what’s happening in the Labour Party – leave that to those of us who are interested in ordinary working class people.”

Mr Goodall had said earlier in his report that “When Mr McCluskey sat down with me, he used language that could be considered an antisemitic trope.”

After the Newsnight report looking into Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership and the future of the Labour party was aired, a clarification of Len McCluskey’s comments was read out.

The statement by Unite the union said: “Mr Mandelson’s religion was not relevant to the comments made by Mr McCluskey. Indeed to the best of our knowledge Mr Mandelson is not Jewish.

“The ordinary meaning of the statement made by Mr McCluskey is one of his belief that in recent years Mr Mandelson has had more interest in increasing his own wealth than fighting for justice for working class people. The suggestion of any antisemitic meaning to the commentary would be ludicrous.”

Lord Mandelson is not religiously observant but his grandfather founded the Harrow United Synagogue.

Mr McCluskey later tweeted at 12:30am this morning: “Before this gets out of hand, let me say language is important and I apologise to Peter Mandelson and anyone else if mine has caused hurt.”

The Union leader’s comments led to criticism from Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl, who said: “We are deeply concerned that the leader of one of the most powerful Trade Unions in this country would go on television and use an antisemitic trope dating back to medieval times.”

Whilst noting that Mr McCluskey has now apologised, this serves to demonstrate just how deeply the language of antisemitism has become rooted among those who would no doubt describe themselves as being proudly anti-racist.”

Mike Katz, the national chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, said he was “pretty disgusted” by Mr McCluskey’s criticism of Lord Mandelson, while Jewish Labour MP, Dame Margaret Hodge, said: “Why McCluskey uses tropes that many would consider antisemitic on BBC Newsnight is a question only he can answer.”

Regardless, he doesn’t get to obfuscate and dictate to us what is and is not anti-Semitic when called out.”

The ignorance with which these tropes are used by McCluskey and others shows just how pervasive and unchallenged antisemitism is on the Hard Left.”

Mr Mandelson told Newsnight that Keir Starmer would have “no alternative” but to take action against anyone in the party named adversely in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s forthcoming report into antisemitism within Labour.

Len McCluskey sparked anger in 2017 when he suggested that claims of antisemitism in the Labour party were “mood music” set to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. He more recently branded Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to settle the libel case with the BBC Panorama antisemitism whistle-blowers as an “abuse of members’ money.”

Jewish News has contacted Labour leader Keir Starmer for comment.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: