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Book by Labour’s Rachel Reeves ‘lifts sections from Wikipedia’

Publisher admits some passages should have been ‘rewritten and properly referenced’

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Thursday 26 October 2023 11:39 BST
Related video: Ex-Bank of England boss Mark Carney endorses Rachel Reeves and Labour

A book on economics by Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has been found to feature passages lifted from Wikipedia and other sources.

Ms Reeves’ publisher Basic Books admitted that some factual sections in The Women Who Made Modern Economics should have been “rewritten and properly referenced”.

And the Labour frontbencher, backed by top economists to become chancellor, said mistakes would be “rectified” in future editions – though she denied claims of plagiarism.

The new book was found by the Financial Times to contain sentences and paragraphs taken from Wikipedia, The Guardian and a foreword by Labour MP Hilary Benn.

Sections on Beatrice Webb, the economist and social reformer, were found to be almost identical to the online encyclopedia.

One sentence on her relationship with HG Wells is exactly the same: “He responded by lampooning the couple in his 1911 novel The New Machiavelli as Altiora and Oscar Bailey, a pair of short-sighted, bourgeois manipulators.”

Ms Reeves’ book also appears to have used a passage written by Mr Benn for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, when discussing the influence on former international development secretary Clare Short on aid spending under the last Labour government.

Mr Benn wrote: “When we were elected in 1997, the amount of aid we gave as a proportion of our national income had halved over the preceding 18 years and was just 0.26 per cent. By the time we left office, we were on our way to achieving the 0.7 per cent target.”

Ms Reeves wrote: “When Labour was elected in 1997, the amount of aid the UK gave as a proportion of our national income had halved over the preceding 18 years and stood at just 0.26 per cent. By the end of Labour’s time in office, in 2010, we were on our way to achieving the 0.7 per cent target.”

Rachel Reeves at Labour conference in Liverpool earlier this month (x)

In a statement, publisher Basic Books admitted some sections should have been reference. “When factual sentences were taken from primary sources, they should have been rewritten and properly referenced. We acknowledge this did not happen in every case.

The publisher also stated: “As always in instances such as these, we will review all sources and ensure any omissions are rectified in future reprints.”

They added: “There is an extensive and selective bibliography of over 200 books, articles and interviews. Where facts are taken from multiple sources, no author would be expected to reference each and every one.”

Ms Reeves’ spokesperson said: “We strongly refute the accusation [of plagiarism] that has been put to us by this newspaper. These were inadvertent mistakes and will be rectified in future reprints.”

Ms Reeves’ researchers – credited with doing some of the work – are believed to have been involved in fact-finding and the writing of the bibliography.

The former Bank of England governor Mark Carney endorsed Ms Reeves and Labour at the party’s conference in Liverpool earlier this month.

The economist – who enjoyed a close working relationship with Tory chancellor George Osborne – said it was “beyond time” for Ms Reeves to run the economy in a Labour government.

Ms Reeves used her speech to announce plans for reforms to the “antiquated” planning system to make it easier to build infrastructure, promised a crackdown on government waste to save an estimated £4bn and vowed to protect the independence of the Bank of England.

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