Antisemitism in Political Parties

Ann Widdecombe

2019: Brexit Party parliamentary candidate, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport

2019-present: Brexit Party Member of the European Parliament for the South West

1987-2010: Conservative Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald

Incidents

1. On 23rd October 2019, it was reported that Ann Widdecombe had defended an alleged former Nazi concentration camp guard currently on trial in Germany, saying that resistance on the part of Bruno Dey, who was 17 when he guarded prisoners at Stuthof camp in Gdansk, would have done “absolutely nothing in terms of alleviating human suffering.” She further claimed that he had not been actively involved in killings carried out at the camp, whereas the court had reportedly merely stated that there was no direct evidence to that effect. It appears to have been established that Mr Dey had watched over labour crews and been aware of corpses being carried to the crematoria for burning.

However, Ms Widdecombe reportedly described the prosecution of the 93-year-old man as “just going one stage too far”, arguing that Mr Dey “presumably” led a “decent life” afterwards and that it would have been “somewhat different” had the trial taken place sooner after the war, later adding: “I think we’re now starting to lack proportionality on this.” She added “…if he had simply defied the order he would have been shot. And not a single Jew would have been saved.”

On 30th October 2019, Ms Widdecombe defended her comments, saying: “I was accused of defending a Nazi —but I had not defended any of his actions, merely commented on the wisdom of trying him in, of all places, a juvenile court when his crime had been to lack the courage as a teenager to stand up to one of the most brutal regimes in history.”

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Ms Widdecombe’s actions and statements qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

In her statement [1], Ms Widdecombe indicates that justice under the law is not required for the victims of Nazism, seeming to consider her own unsubstantiated judgements — that “he had not been actively involved in killings carried out at the camp” and that “not a single Jew would have been saved” — to be preferable to the rule of law, as well as explicitly stating that she had “merely commented on the wisdom of trying him in, of all places, a juvenile court when his crime had been to lack the courage as a teenager to stand up to one of the most brutal regimes in history.” Her comments therefore discriminate against the Jewish victims of murder and genocide, and as such constitute a rhetorical manifestation of antisemitism.

Outcome

On August 18th 2019, it was reported that Ms Widdecombe had been a guest on the Richie Allen radio show three times between August 2017 and April 2019. Richie Allen is a journalist who broadcasts a current affairs programme, which purports to discuss “… that which the mainstream media won’t”. It is broadcast on his own website and is also available elsewhere including on Davidicke.com, the site of writer and conspiracy theorist David Icke, who has also appeared on the Mr Allen’s show. The show has hosted notorious antisemite Gilad Atzmon on numerous occasions.

A Brexit Party spokesman reportedly denounced Mr Icke, but said that he suspected “few would know who his contacts are,” adding: “Obviously we denounce antisemitism and racism of any stripe. I’d never heard of this show, or indeed any of its guests. I doubt that the guests were any the wiser. We are now.”

On 22nd August 2019, it was reported that Ms Widdecombe had defended her appearances on the show, saying that in each case she had pointed to her longstanding support for Israel and Jewish causes, having been a member of Conservative Friends of Israel and a speaker at Jewish charity B’nai B’rith’s events. She commented: “I wouldn’t mind if I had not always supported Jewish causes. If I am antisemitic, the Pope is anti-Catholic.” She said that she had agreed to appear on the programmes to discuss Brexit, and that it was unreasonable to expect politicians to know “who’s been on before and said what in the past”.

It was further reported that, in August 2019, Ms Widdecombe had also been a guest on Bristol Community FM’s Politics Show. The programme is hosted by Tony Gosling, who was the subject of an Ofcom complaint, alleging that his programme is “filled with conspiracy theories, extremism, racism and propaganda”, and whose podcast featured a debate between notorious antisemite Gilad Atzmon and Tony Greenstein, who was expelled from the Labour Party after having made antisemitic statements.  

At the time of writing, on 23rd November 2019, we are unaware of any disciplinary action having been taken by the Brexit Party against Ms Widdecombe.

In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Ms Widdecombe, but did not receive a response.

In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to the Brexit Party, but did not receive a response.

Rating

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “bad”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 4th December 2019.

Justice, justice, you shall pursue - צדק צדק תרדף
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