Monday, March 4

Naz Shah MP: timeline of events leading to MP’s suspension from Labour party



Labour MP Naz Shah admits to the Guido Fawkes blog she wrote a Facebook post arguing for Israel’s population to be “transported” out of the Middle East to America. Shah is currently a member of the House of Commons home affairs select committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the rise of antisemitism.

The post, shared nine months before she beat George Galloway to win the seat in Bradford West, showed a picture of Israel superimposed over the United States, with the approving comment: “Problem solved and save you bank charges for the £3bn you transfer yearly.”

In comments below, Shah said she would tweet Barack Obama and David Cameron with the suggestion and said it would “save them some pocket money”.

Shah, parliamentary private secretary to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, tells the blog that she is sorry and will be making a fuller statement later.

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Shah resigns as PPS to McDonnell, issuing a statement expressing deep regret.

I deeply regret the hurt I have caused by comments made on social media before I was elected as an MP.

I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high around the Middle East conflict. But that is no excuse for the offence I have given, for which I unreservedly apologise.

In recognition of that offence I have stepped down from my role as PPS to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

I will be seeking to expand my existing engagement and dialogue with Jewish community organisations, and will be stepping up my efforts to combat all forms of racism, including antisemitism.

3.30pm: new post emerges, claiming: ‘The Jews are rallying’

More Facebook posts by Shah emerge. She wrote the caption #ApartheidIsrael on a picture that appeared to compare the state to the Nazis. It was above a picture of Dr Martin Luther King holding the quote: “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’.”

Pressure mounts on Jeremy Corbyn to discipline Shah by suspending the Labour whip but the leader’s office is yet to issue a statement.

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer and the Conservative Friends of Israel chairman, Sir Eric Pickles, call for the Labour whip to be withdrawn.

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden writes to Corbyn saying “a failure to act would call into question the commitment of the Labour party to deal with wholly unacceptable behaviour and would constitute a betrayal of the values that all those who believe in democracy should uphold”.

Joan Ryan, the Labour Friends of Israel chair, calls the comments “highly offensive and completely unacceptable”.

Wednesday 27 April: Labour’s new antisemitism row is on the front pages

Both the Times and the Mail put the new antisemitism row on their front pages. The Times, meanwhile, is criticised for failing to feature the Hillsborough inquests verdict on the first edition front page.

9.00am: new controversy over posts by councillor employed by Shah

Guido Fawkes reports that Shah had employed a Labour councillor, Mohammed Shabbir, who is also alleged to have made antisemitic remarks, claiming Russian Orthodox Jews were involved in “the sex trafficking trade – demand is particularly high among Charedim, the conservative Orthodox Jews, many of whom are regular clients of brothels”.

The Jewish Chronicle also runs a piece on Shabbir’s comments about the decision to fly the Palestinian flag – but not Israel’s flag – at Bradford town hall.

It reports that when some councillors questioned why the Israeli flag could not be flown, Shabbir wrote:

Many here in Bradford would be nauseated at seeing the Nazi flag or some other fascist with their Nazi salutes and chants. Frankly Israel is a ‘terror’ and ‘apartheid’ state, its vexillum has become a symbol of despotism and genocide. In my view there is not an appropriate time to fly this flag in Bradford. One may ask what could be this time?

Could it be at the return of British Israelis from Gaza with blood on their hands? I think not. Could it be during the Holocaust memorial? Many Jews and people will question the conflation of a tragedy and crime like the Holocaust with a flag committing another ethnic cleansing. So what is an appropriate time? There is none.

Shabbir told the Guardian: “The views on my blog are all about humanity despite which religion people follow. My actions within my community speak louder than words and the comments on my blog have been misconstrued and taken out of context.”

11.30am: Corbyn calls Shah’s remarks offensive and says she has apologised for historic posts

Corbyn says he has spoken to Shah and told her that her comments were wrong.

What Naz Shah did was offensive and unacceptable. I have spoken to her and made this clear. These are historic social media posts made before she was a member of parliament.

“Naz has issued a fulsome apology. She does not hold these views and accepts she was completely wrong to have made these posts. The Labour party is implacably opposed to antisemitism and all forms of racism.

The statement draws some criticism online for not affirming Shah’s posts were antisemitic.

11.40am: shadow minister says Shah should be suspended

Lisa Nandy, the shadow energy and climate change secretary, tells the BBC’s Daily Politics that Shah should be suspended from the Labour party – apparently unaware that Corbyn’s office had only minutes before issued a statement which accepted Shah’s “fulsome apology”.

12.00pm: Shah apologises for ‘foolish’ posts in Jewish News article

Shah publishes a piece in the Jewish News, headlined: My apology to the Jewish community.

The MP says she wants to make “an unequivocal apology for statements and ideas that I have foolishly endorsed in the past”.

With the understanding of the issues I have now I would never have posted them. I have to own up to the fact that ignorance is not a defence.

The language I used was wrong. It is hurtful. What’s important is the impact these posts have had on other people. I understand that referring to Israel and Hitler as I did is deeply offensive to Jewish people, for which I apologise.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I’m shocked myself at the language I used in some instances during the Gaza-Israel conflict.

Shah says she has been working hard building bridges between Muslims and Jews in Bradford, visiting the local synagogue and attending an interfaith Passover meal, as well as being invited to join the all-party parliamentary group on British Jews.

Her apology draws a mixed reaction, with some praising her open approach, but others pointing out some clumsy phrasing.

In a statement, the Community Security Trust, a body which monitors antisemitism, says it welcomes the MP’s apology. “We hope this begins a constructive process for all concerned,” it says.

12.00pm: Corbyn is challenged at PMQs over Shah’s position

David Cameron refers to Shah’s conduct during prime minister’s questions, saying it is “quite extraordinary” that an MP who appears to have suggested Israelis should be deported to the US still has the Labour whip.

A No 10 aide later tells reporters: “If the Labour party had a shred of decency she would be immediately suspended … Jeremy Corbyn should be ashamed of himself.”

2.42pm: Shah apologises in the House of Commons

Naz Shah apologises ‘wholeheartedly’ for Israel remarks

Immediately after Theresa May’s statement on the Hillsborough inquest, Shah addresses the House of Commons to apologise for her posts.

Mr Speaker, can I seek your advice on how I can express my deep sorrow for something the prime minister referred to earlier?

As you know, when a government minister makes a mistake they can correct the record. I hope you will allow me to say that I fully acknowledge that I have made a mistake and I wholeheartedly apologise to this house for the words I used before I became a member.

I accept and understand that the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that. Antisemitism is racism, full stop. As an MP I will do everything in my power to build relations between Muslims, Jews and people of different faiths and none.

I am grateful and thankful for the support and advice I have received from many Jewish friend and colleagues, advice I intend to act upon.

I truly regret what I did and I hope, I sincerely hope, that this house will accept my profound apology.

Despite the apology, political reporters begin to receive word Shah is set to be suspended, despite Corbyn’s previous statement.

3.39pm: BuzzFeed article claims Labour deleted references to antisemitism in Shah’s apology article

BuzzFeed claims to have seen a draft of the statement written by Shah’s team and sent to the party for approval, which went into more detail about the problem of antisemitism on the left. The lines about antisemitism are alleged to have been cut.

The website said the original draft wrote: “I helped promote antisemitic tropes. This was totally wrong.”

Another line that was allegedly cut was a discussion of “an intersectional struggle, one where the concerns of Jewish individuals and communities are taken seriously and antisemitism is not dismissed out of hand or ignored”.

“We on the left must stop procrastinating and tackle oppression within our own ranks, especially anti-Jewish oppression,” Shah is alleged to have written in the draft statement. Neither line appeared in the Jewish News piece.

The clumsy reference to “Hitler and Israel” was also allegedly tweaked, originally saying: “I accept that referencing Israel in a comparison to Nazi Germany was not only wrong, but totally inaccurate.”

4.07pm Naz Shah is suspended from the Labour party

Labour announces that Shah has been suspended “by mutual agreement” while claims against her are investigated by Labour’s national executive committee.

A Labour party spokesman says: “Jeremy Corbyn and Naz Shah have mutually agreed that she is administratively suspended from the Labour party by the general secretary.

Pending investigation, she is unable to take part in any party activity and the whip is removed.