Leading QC Michael Mansfield has withdrawn his sponsorship of a group that believes Labour’s antisemitism scandal is a political witch-hunt after being shown “unacceptable” messages.
The high-profile barrister said he was pulling his support for Labour Against the Witch-hunt (LAW) after he was “alerted to material promulgated by the campaign,” prompting a strenuous denial from the group.
In a statement, Mansfield said: “I was unaware of this and both the tenor and content are unacceptable. For these reasons I wish to withdraw my sponsorship, whilst at the same time wishing to maintain my enduring support for a responsible and vigorous critique of any government which flagrantly undermines the rule of law.”
Mansfield said he first gave his support “to defend the right of those who wished to voice legitimate criticisms of the government of Israel and their repeated violation of International law from being unfairly categorised as antisemitism”.
He added that this objective was shared by fellow campaigners Moshe Machover, Ken Loach and Noam Chomsky, who were not implicated in the offensive posts.
In a statement on Wednesday, however, the LAW steering committee denied that it was behind the messages, saying it “deplores some of the tweets that have been issued in our name”.
They added: “The LAW Twitter account had been used outside of our control. We have only just been informed of the content of some of the tweets and wish to distance LAW from them in the strongest possible terms.
“We have now been able to access and delete that Twitter account and set up a new one, with the handle @LAW_witchhunt.”
LAW is led by Tony Greenstein, who was expelled from Labour earlier this year, and its members include former Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker, who is currently suspended. Both have made controversial statements about Jews.
The group is supported by Labour MP Chris Williamson and Jewish celebrities such as comedian Alexei Sayle. Both attended the LAW fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool last week.