The deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner has been rounded on by social media users after a tweet that brushed over the historic contributions of Jewish political leaders in British politics.
Ms Rayner was tweeting a message of congratulations to newly elected Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, boasting that she was “so proud that our party has elected the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the UK.”
Social media users quickly reminded Ms Rayner of Britain’s long history of prominent Jewish politicians, including beloved ex-PM Benjamin Disraeli, famous Liberal Party leader Herbert Samuel, and recent Tory and Labour leaders Michael Howard and Ed Miliband.
Comedian David Baddiel, whose new book Jews Don’t Count examines anti-Jewish hatred and the pervasive exclusion of anti-Semitism from the fight against racism, said: “Ed Miliband, so quickly forgot.”
Rayner’s tweet also ignored other ethnic minority British leaders, like short-lived UKIP boss Freddy Vachha – who has Indian Parsi heritage.
The tweet will be particularly embarrassing in light of Labour’s recent struggles against allegations of institutional anti-Semitism under the leadership of two-time election loser Jeremy Corbyn.
A blockbuster investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found “specific examples of harassment, discrimination and political interference in our evidence” and noted “a lack of leadership within the Labour party on these issues, which is hard to reconcile with its stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.”
The Corbyn era wasn’t the first time Labour faced allegations of anti-Jewish racism. During the 2005 election run-up, which pitted Tony Blair’s New Labour machine against the Tories under Jewish leader Michael Howard, the party was condemned by Jewish groups for posters deemed anti-Semitic.
One saw Howard and Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin, also of Jewish heritage, depicted as flying pigs while another showed Howard swinging a pocket watch in a mock-up that was compared to the character Shylock from Shakespeare’s controversial play The Merchant of Venice.