A Unite trade union official who has previously spoken out in defence of left-wing activists accused of antisemitism has been suspended by Labour after calling for Home Secretary Priti Patel to be “deported”.
Howard Beckett – who is attempting to succeed Len McCluskey as leader of Unite – sparked fury on Thursday evening after he tweeting in response to an attempt to deport two asylum seekers in Glasgow.
He wrote: “Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.”
After the tweet sparked widespread anger Becket initially refused to back down, arguing that his tweet was “about society being able to do without anyone who promotes racism.”
But he eventually deleted it, before claiming “I’m very sorry for my earlier tweet. I was angry to see Muslim refugees being deported on the morning of Eid Al Fitr.”
Patel was born in London after her parents came to Britain from Uganda in the 1960s.
Labour confirmed they were looking into the tweet, with Beckett being a member of the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC).
In a statement they said: “The Labour Party takes these allegations extremely seriously and appropriate action will be taken.”
In the past Beckett, Unite’s Political and Legal chief, has defended Kerry Anne Mendoza, who has repeatedly faced claims of antisemitism with her interventions on the issue.
Beckett was interviewed on Mendoza’s left-wing online outlet The Canary last July. She praised him for giving her and other activists “practical support” to help “help fight the witch-hunt and purge of left-wing Labour members”.
Meanwhile, it a further blow for Beckett and his union, a High Court judge confirmed on Thursday that Unite will have to pay nearly £1.4 million in costs after losing a libel case against the former Labour MP Anna Turley.
Judge Andrew Gordon-Saker confirmed that Unite and the blogger Steve Walker should pay the amount after Turley sued over an article on his Skwawkbox site published in 2017.
When Unite’s own costs in the case are taking into consideration, along with the £85, 000 they paid in damages, the libel defeat is estimated to have cost the union around £2.5 million in total, as revealed last week by Jewish News.
The article on Mr Walker’s blog, which contained a statement from Unite, was found to have libelled Ms Turley by suggesting she acted dishonestly when submitting an application to join the union. She also said Unite had misused her private information. Unite bosses and Mr Walker fought the case and claimed Ms Turley was not fit to be an MP.
Ms Turley said launching the action had given her no pleasure, but she had no choice.
She tweeted on Thursday:”All they had to do was apologise & remove the article. Would have cost nothing. Plus we gave them opportunity to settle.
“But they didn’t care about members’ money & thought they were untouchable. I hope if anything comes from this it’s new, decent leadership for Unite the union.”
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 Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
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.