Michael Gove urged to apologise for sharing antisemitic tweet falsely attributed to Labour member

Momentum accuse cabinet minister of attempting to 'smear us through association'

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Monday 04 November 2019 19:10 GMT
Michael Gove urged to apologise for sharing fake antisemitic tweet

Michael Gove has been urged to apologise for sharing an antisemitic tweet from a Twitter account falsely claiming to be run by a Labour member.

The cabinet minister took to social media to urge Jeremy Corbyn and some of his high-profile supporters to condemn a tweet saying "we can't trust Jews", from a user claiming to be a member of Labour and Momentum, the Corbyn-backing grassroots network.

But Labour and Momentum both confirmed the account "Joe Woods #JC4PM" did not belong to any of their members, with Momentum accusing Mr Gove of attempting to "smear us through association".

It comes as the parties gear up for a pre-Christmas election, with concerns raised over use of social media during the campaign.

The row began after the account responded to Holocaust Education Trust chief executive Karen Pollock, who praised a line of questioning on antisemitism on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Mr Pollock said: "As well as receiving a tirade of responses about ‘smears’, the most telling was the post below.

"Acc to a Labour activist with the usual hashtag, “we can’t trust Jews”."

Mr Gove seized on the tweet, saying: "This is from a Corbyn supporter and Momentum member.

"I hope I can see condemnation of this grotesque anti-semitism from Jeremy Corbyn, Laura Parker [Momentum's national co-ordinator], Ash Sarkar [pro-Corbyn commentator], Matt Zarb Cousin [a former Corbyn spokesman]."

Ms Parker, a former aide to Mr Corbyn, said the comments were "abhorrent" but urged Mr Gove to "check facts first... not play politics with it".

A Momentum source said: "Joe Woods is not a Momentum member, but obviously Michael Gove didn't want to check with us first. It is disgraceful that a Cabinet Minister is sharing vile antisemitic tweets from dubious accounts in order to smear us through association.

"We condemn the clearly antisemitic content of the tweet falsely attributed to a Momentum member.

"If Gove was serious about combating antisemitism he would have raised it with us first, but instead he rushed to score political points.

"Ordinarily I would be shocked by such behaviour, but there seems to be no limit to how low this government is willing to go. Gove should retract his comments and apologise."

Labour also said it believed the account was fake and urged Mr Gove to concentrate on stamping out Islamophobia within the Tory party.

A party source said: “The tweet was disgusting and plainly antisemitic. The details of the account do not match any Labour member and we believe it may be fake."

"The Conservatives should get their house in order and take action on Islamophobia, antisemitism and racism in their party," the source added.

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Baroness Warsi, a former Tory co-chairman who was the first female Muslim to attend cabinet, also accused Mr Gove of faileing to combat racism in his own party.

She said: "Michael's on a mission to fight antisemitism - noble cause.

"But you can’t feed one form of racism and profess to fight another because that’s not challenging bigotry, it’s playing politics.

"And both British Jews and British Muslims deserve better than this divisive approach."

Mr Gove has been approached for comment.

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