Tory candidate apologises after posting ‘antisemitic’ cartoon depicting hook nosed men

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Tory candidate apologises after posting ‘antisemitic’ cartoon depicting hook nosed men

Stephen James, the Tory candidate in Dover and Deal, tells Jewish News: 'I want to unequivocally state that I abhor antisemitism and any form of discrimination'.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Tory election candidate Stephen James is accused of posting antisemitic cartoon
Tory election candidate Stephen James is accused of posting antisemitic cartoon

A Tory election candidate has apologised “wholeheartedly for any offence caused” after posting an “antisemitic” cartoon depicting men with hooked noses at the white cliffs of Dover.

Stephen James, standing in Dover and Deal, had posted the image on X last weekend, which showed two men in three-piece suits and top hats standing at the famous white cliffs in the Kent seaside town, and had included the term “carpetbaggers”.

James eventually deleted the post, which declared he was “the only true local candidate” and also linked it to his website.

Apologising for his conduct, the Conservative candidate told Jewish News:”I want to unequivocally state that I abhor antisemitism and any form of discrimination.

“As someone who has written for the Times of Israel on antisemitism, I am acutely aware of the importance of vigilance against such instances. As a veteran, I have fought for my country against hatred and will continue to do so.

“The image was created using an AI app based on the work of political artist Thomas Nast and Gerald Scarfe.

“I chose Nast as I was speaking about ‘carpetbaggers’ in reference to a fellow candidate who has no ties to the area they want to represent.

“AI has safeguards to prevent the creation of offensive images, but on this occasion, it fell short and I shall be extra vigilant going forward. I apologise wholeheartedly for any offence caused by this image.”

A Jewish Labour source told Jewish News that the candidate had showed an “appalling lack of judgment” by posting the image.

Mike Tapp, Labour’s candidate for Dover and Deal, said: “Any candidate who shares antisemitic material online is not fit to be an MP. Rishi Sunak should condemn Mr James’s actions, and immediately suspend him as a candidate. If the Conservatives will not do that, it shows that they are willing to run antisemitic candidates.”

Conservative life peer Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, KC also condemned Tory candidates post saying:”I understand this offensive image has now been deleted. If it had been posted by another party’s candidate, I would have called it out and awaited an apology; and the same must apply in this instance.”

The Mirror reported that James had written on Sunday alongside the image: “I’m the only true local candidate for #Dover, #Deal & The Villages. Unlike the carpetbaggers, I live, work, and raise my family in East Kent. Read why local representation matters…” He added a link to his website and also said “#VoteStephenJames #GE2024”

Dover and Deal Tory candidate, Stephen James

On his website James said: “I live, work, and raise my family in East Kent, right in the heart of the Dover and Deal constituency. Unlike my opponents who reside in West Kent, I chose to make East Kent my home to ensure that I am always in touch with the daily realities and unique challenges that our community faces.

“This proximity means I don’t just visit our area; I live and breathe the same issues we face daily. From the challenges of our local infrastructure to the nuances of our maritime heritage, my firsthand experience is invaluable. My local knowledge is not theoretical but practical, grounded in everyday life within our community.”

He added: “In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of candidates who have no real ties to the areas they wish to represent. These so-called “carpetbaggers” often come in with big promises but lack the deep-rooted understanding of the local issues and concerns that only a true local candidate can possess.”

The Conservatives won Dover in 2019 with a 12,278 majority but the seat’s former MP Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour last month. The newly named Dover and Deal constituency represents a key battleground at next month’s election.

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