Labour: Lammy does not think obesity policy is a bid to distract from journalist’s death

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Labour: Lammy does not think obesity policy is a bid to distract from journalist’s death

David Lammy had remarked on the 'fair point' by a caller to his LBC talk show complaining about no coverage of the shooting of Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Israeli police confront mourners as they carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in east Jerusalem.
Israeli police confront mourners as they carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in east Jerusalem.

Labour has denied its shadow foreign secretary David Lammy believes a change to the government’s obesity policy was announced to distract from the killing of a Palestinian journalist last week.

Lammy said “some suggest that it’s a fair point” after a caller to his LBC talk show claimed “there had been no coverage whatsoever” of the shooting of Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh last Wednesday.

The caller added that had the death had “happened to have been an Israel journalist, happened to have been a Ukrainian journalist, it would have been on the news all day.”

His call to the radio show had been sparked by the seemingly unrelated issue of obesity, and an announcement made by the Prime Minister to delay a ban on  “buy one get one free” deals on junk food and a pre-9pm watershed for TV advertising.

The announcement was the result of a ministerial meeting held on Wednesday to find ways to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Responding to the claim that the shooting of the Al Jazeera reporter was being ignored, Lammy said: “It’s a fair point….it goes to this terrible situation where a journalist was killed, shot in Israel.

“I know a lot of people, I’ve certainly raised it as foreign secretary, and tweeted about it, made comment about it. “

He then added: “It’s not been discussed, this issue is dominating the news today. And you are right to ask the question of balance and why is that?

“I think that’s a broader question than here on LBC, where we discuss a range of issues, including that one. Across the channels I know it is an issue.”

Then in remarks that provoked some dismay on social media, Lammy said: “And some suggest that it’s a fair point that one of the reasons Boris Johnson puts these stories out is because it means we don’t concentrate on other stories. I think I am going to end there.”

A Labour spokesperson told Jewish News: “On his LBC show, David spoke generally about the Conservative Party’s practice of putting out some headline-grabbing stories to distract from ‘other stories’.

“He absolutely does not believe that the Conservatives announced its U-turn to distract from Shireen Abu Akleh’s tragic death.

“The Buy One Get One Free story may, however, have been used to distract from countless negative stories about the Conservative Party’s failure to tackle the cost of living crisis.”

Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, was made shadow foreign secretary by Keir Starmer in November 2021.

He has been a longtime supporter of Labour Friends of Israel, but has faced criticism from the community over his  earlier decision to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Appearing at Limmud last December he told the audience he was “sorry” for his “mistake” over Corbyn.

Last Wednesday’s death of Shireen Abu Akleh, during a shout out between Palestinians and Israeli forces sparked widespread anger.

An investigation into the killing has yet to establish who fired the bullets that killed the widely respected reporter.

An Israeli military interim report on Thursday said the fatal shot could have come from “massive fire from Palestinian gunmen”, or possibly from “a few bullets” fired by a soldier “at a terrorist who was firing at his vehicle”.

There was further revulsion at the scenes on Friday at the funeral of the journalist in Jerusalem.

Footage showed the coffin almost falling  as Israeli police, some using batons, waded into a crowd of Palestinians gathered around it.

After the BBC and other channels aired the footage, world leaders lined up to condemn the conduct of the Israeli police.

They initially claimed they had reacted as they did after being pelted with stones. But in a further statement on Saturday they suggested Palestinian militants had paraded the coffin, against the wishes of the journalist’s family, in the street.

Further shocking images showed Israeli police removing Palestinian flags from mourners and from the hearse carrying the coffin.

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