Board president warns Gove it would be ‘a retrograde step to dismiss Lord Mann’

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Board president warns Gove it would be ‘a retrograde step to dismiss Lord Mann’

EXCLUSIVE Marie van der Zyl writes to Michael Gove telling him Lord Mann has the 'overwhelming support' of the community in his antisemitism advisor role amid 'rumours' he is facing the sack

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Marie van der Zyl
Marie van der Zyl

Michael Gove has been told of the “overwhelming support” within the Jewish community for work carried out  by the government’s Independent advisor on antisemitism, amid “rumours” that he is looking to sack him from the role.

A letter written by Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl to the Communities Secretary also warned that at “a time when our community is so distressed by the sheer amounts of Jew-hatred in the UK at this time… it would be a retrograde step to dismiss Lord Mann.”

Jewish News understands that the Board’s president was left shocked and surprised by reports last week that suggested Mann would not be reinstated in the role he has held since 2019 once his five year long term came to an end in July.

In a letter seen by Jewish News, Van der Zyl informs the Secretary of State:” Rumours continue to circulate around the fate of Lord Mann, the government’s Independent advisor on antisemitism. 

“I wish to put on record that the Jewish community is overwhelmingly supportive of Lord Mann and very appreciative of his tireless work on behalf of the Jewish community. ”

Communities Secretary Michael Gove giving his keynote address during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture date: Monday October 4, 2021.

She also highlights the fact that as someone who is not Jewish, Mann has been hugely impressive in the role, carrying out important research on the rise in antisemitism in universities, schools, and within sport, since being appointed under ex-Prime Minister Theresa May.

“The fact that he is so effective makes it even more significant,” Van der Zyl says of Mann’s track record.

But clearly fearful that Gove has decided to seek a replacement for the former Labour MP in the role, the Board president writes:”If, however, you feel compelled to terminate his appointment, I trust that you will consult with the Jewish community’s democratic representative leadership and look to appoint through an open and transparent process an equally outstanding and non-controversial figure who will command respect from the vast majority of our community.”

Thanking Gove for his own commitment to tackling antisemitism, Van der Zyl confirms in the letter she is available to discuss the matter further with the Secretary of State.

Last week Jonathan Goldstein, the former Jewish Leadership Council chair was among those to express support for Mann Lord Mann praised as ‘great servant’ to community amid government sacking claimsafter the rumours he was about to be replaced surfaced.

The Jewish Labour Movement and the London Jewish Forum co-founder Andrew Gilbert also expressed their own support.

Some senior communal figures also raised fears that the decision to replace Mann was a political one, being taken not for the best interests of the community, but after strong lobbying from voices who resented the peer’s independent approach to his work.

One source said pressure for Gove to replace Mann was coming from individuals who “fear the door might not be so wide open for them if Labour became the next government.”

Jonathan Goldstein addresses the large crowd in Parliament Square at the #EnoughIsEnough demo
Credit Marc Morris

Gove has developed a reputation for making ruthless decisions, often without full explanation.

Imam Qari Asim, once his key aide on combating anti-Muslim hatred, was let go.

The Inter Faith Network (IFN), a charity set up to improve cohesion between different UK faith communities, is also closing after Gove withdrew funding over concerns about a trustee connected to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

On Thursday, Gove delivered a statement in the Commons in support of the government’s new extremism definition.

At one stage he praised Lord Mann’s work as being “outstanding.”

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