Ex-BBC editor Mason condemns far-left slurs that Starmer is controlled by Israel

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Ex-BBC editor Mason condemns far-left slurs that Starmer is controlled by Israel

Appearing as a panellist Paul Mason challenged speaker who suggested Keir Starmer is controlled by Israel, adding 'Why didn't you just say Jew?'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Paul Mason
Paul Mason

Former BBC journalist Paul Mason last night condemned far-left claims that Labour leader Keir Starmer is controlled by Israel, telling one activist at a meeting:”Why didn’t you just say Jew?”

Mason was on the panel of an event titled “Is It Worth Voting Labour in 2024?” featuring the former MP Emma Dent Coad, now standing as an independent candidate, and former NEU union general secretary Kevin Courtney.

At Monday’s meeting, organised by a group in north-west London named Better Kensal & Kilburn, which was chaired by Melissa Benn, an activist, who declared herself a supporter of Dent Coad, repeatedly linked the Labour leader with Israel in a speech.

A recording of the meeting confirms the woman said: “Jeremy Corbyn was outed and obliterated through the media because of Keir Starmer and his Israeli sponsors.”

She continued: “And the fact that so many in the Labour Party are supported and funded by Israel.

“How can anyone even consider voting Labour? They don’t stand for the people.”

The same woman added: “The only hope that we have and why I’m here supporting Emma is because she’s local. She would have stood for Labour again, but Starmer and his Israeli body didn’t want her standing. And that’s been the case, as we’ve seen across the country.”

After she finished speaking, the woman, later identified by Dent Coad as being named Leearna, was loudly applauded by many of those in the room.

MP Emma Dent Coad, left, (Credit: Wikimedia Commons), screenshot of post, right (credit: Facebook)

But responding, a clearly angry Mason said: “She’s asked me to keep it brief and punchy, I’m afraid I will because, why didn’t you just say ‘Jew’?

“Why didn’t you just say, ‘Jew?’ Why didn’t you just say ‘is a Jewish agent?’ ”

The former Newnight and Channel 4 News economics editor’s remarks immediately sparked unrest in the room.

But he continued:”Anybody in this room who wants to be part of a left where you go around saying that Starmer is an Israel agent, if you want to do that, fine, form a party together, form an alliance, support Emma.

“But don’t bother supporting the Labour Party because we are anti-racist.

“We are anti-racist and will never accept that Keir Starmer is an agent of Israel.”

The woman then spoke again suggesting that was “not what I meant”.

But Mason continued to speak out, telling the audience they needed to decide “whether you are for it or against it.”

A man then shouted out, “genocide!”

Mason responded: “I don’t need any lectures about genocide. I’ve been to Gaza. I’ve seen what the Israelis do.”

Later Dent Coad, who lost the Kensington seat in 2019 as the Labour candidate and has announced that she will stand as an independent at the next general election, then spoke herself, and failed to condemn the claims about Starmer and Israel.

Dent Coad said: “I’m just going to pass by that. We have marched together Leearna and I. I know exactly where she stands.

“We are marching with our Jewish brothers and sisters. I’m not having that. It’s a political ideology. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to accuse somebody of antisemitism when they are against a political ideology.”

Dent Coad had previously won the west London seat in the 2017 election as a supporter of Corbyn.

But she was at the centre of a racism scandal when she labelled the Black Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey a “token ghetto boy” and “scumbag”.

In 2019 she was also found to have liked a Facebook comment which stated Israel “disgraces all of us Jews worldwide.”

The former MP also spoke at Stop the War Coalition demonstrations, and apologies after making false claims about members of the Royal Family.

In 2023 Dent Coad was blocked from standing again for Labour on “due diligence” grounds.

Mason, who once supported Corbyn himself, has more recently emerged as an outspoken critic of the ideology pursued by the former leader, particular in relation to antisemitism and on foreign policy and defence issues.

He has spoken to in support of current leader Starmer, and has attempted to stand for Labour in several seats.

His name has been put forward to the party as a possible candidate to stand against Corbyn in Islington North if the ex-leader decides to run as an independent.

But Mason is likely to face other a challenge from other Labour activists wishing to stand in the seat, including Praful Nargand, a local Islington councillor and innovations entrepreneur.

A source at this week’s meeting confirmed that former union boss Courtney had joined Mason in repudiating the comments linking Starmer to Israel.

But the source added: “The worrying thing was how many people there appeared to support the woman’s claims. It’s a big problem on the far-left.”

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