‘G4S vote calls into question Labour’s commitment to security’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

‘G4S vote calls into question Labour’s commitment to security’

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Community leaders have insisted a vote by Labour Party’s governing body to boycott security firm G4S calls into question the party’s commitment to security and opposition to delegitimisation of Israel, writes Justin Cohen.

The national executive committee voted for the proposal last week, following an unscheduled intervention, despite the party’s General Secretary Iain McNicol trying to rule the motion out of order, according to party sources.

The move came on the same day that Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn insisted the party must take on those who delegitimise Israel, and just weeks after the party made clear its opposition to “general” boycotts of the Jewish state. Supporters of the move insisted it did not constitute a boycott of Israel.

But Labour Friends of Israel parliamentary chairman, Joan Ryan MP, said she would be writing to McNicol to express “deep concern” over a move she claimed “directly contravenes” the party’s long-standing opposition to boycotts.

“I hope it will now be urgently reviewed,” she said. A spokesperson for the Fair Play Campaign group, a joint initiative of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, attacked the move as “pointless gesture politics”.

A statement said: “The Labour NEC has decided to boycott G4S for providing metal detectors and security guards that protect Israeli civilians from terror attacks. The vote calls into question Labour’s commitment to security and conflicts with Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn’s strong statements opposing the delegitimisation of Israel. So what is Labour’s policy now? We urge Labour’s General Secretary to ensure G4S is treated fairly and that this boycott is reversed.”

Former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles branded it “stupid, pointless and damaging to British jobs”.

Jewish News understands that around half the NEC’s 33 members had already left the meeting, including Jeremy Corbyn and deputy leader Tom Watson.

And NEC member Alice Perry, a councillor, said: “I wasn’t present for the vote. I had left the room briefly. I didn’t realise there was going to be a vote.”

Although not a formal policy-making body, the NEC is responsible for overseeing the overall direction of the party and the policy-making process, and conference security comes under its governance remit. G4S – which has provided security at the party’s annual conference for more than a decade – said it had yet to receive any “formal clarification” of what the vote will mean.

In a page dedicated to G4S on its website, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign says the company provides services and equipment to checkpoints in the West Bank and for “major Israeli prisons which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel”.

It is understood some in the meeting believe the vote was not linked to BDS. While insisting the move was not a boycott of Israel, NEC member Jennie Formby, political director of the Unite union, confirmed to Jewish News the decision was taken “because of concerns this company has acted unethically and has been found in breach of the human rights obligations of the OECD guidelines for multinational companies”.

Claiming that more than half of NEC members were present for the discussion, she said in a statement: “The issue of G4S was raised during an agenda item reviewing the party conference. The Labour Party was founded to advance justice and fairness at home and abroad. Members from across the party had consistently expressed concerns that G4S’ conduct is not consistent with those values.”

But in June, a major investigation into allegations from Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights about regions in which G4S operates, found no failure “to respect human rights in regards to its operations”.

A report by the UK National Contact Point for the OECD said that, while evidence “establishes there are adverse human rights impacts associated with the facilities and locations referred to in the complaint”, it fails to indicate that G4S staff or equipment “play a direct part in these impacts”.

However, it said the company’s “actions are not consistent with its obligation under the OECD Guidelines to address impacts it is linked to by a business relationship” until it makes these efforts public.

We Believe in Israel director and former NEC member Luke Akehurst said: “I am shocked the NEC would casually pass a motion which both endangers the jobs of members of GMB union that work for G4S and which drives coach and horses through the Labour Party’s long-standing policy against BDS.”

Labour initially said only it did not comment on decisions taken in internal meetings but a spokesperson added yesterday: “G4S has provided services to Labour Conference for a number of years. There is no pre-existing contract for the 2016 conference and decisions about future contracts are continually reviewed.”


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: