Antisemitism in Political Parties

Richard Short

2019: Conservative parliamentary candidate, St Helens South and Whiston

2019: Conservative Party candidate, Astley Mosley Common ward, Wigan Borough Council

2018: Conservative Party candidate, Astley Mosley Common ward, Wigan Borough Council

2016: Conservative Party candidate, Astley Mosley Common ward, Wigan Borough Council

2015: Conservative parliamentary candidate, Warrington North

Deputy Director, Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists

Incidents

1. On 20th June 2013, Richard Short tweeted: [a] “Melanie Philips being a bit zionist is her allegiance to UK or Israel #bbcqt”

When another Twitter user responded, “I believe her allegiance is greater to Israel personally. Not that that’s wrong, but she should spell it out beforehand,” Mr Short replied: [b] “I agree. [c] She almost has to declare an interest.”

Ms Phillips had appeared on the BBC’s Question Time that evening, and Mr Short was tweeting in response to her own reply to a question about arming Syrian rebels against President Assad. Her analysis of the situation included the observation that Syria under President Assad was a pawn of Iran, and that the latter was working to develop a nuclear weapon with which to attack Israel.

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Mr Short’s statements amount to breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

By questioning whether the allegiance of a British Jewish journalist was to the UK or Israel [1a]; by endorsing the assertion that “her allegiance is greater to Israel” [1b] and further suggesting that she should “declare an interest” [1c], Mr Short was “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

Outcome

On 28th November 2019, Mr Short’s comments were revealed by the anti-Brexit activist website Scram News. It was further reported that he had said: “I apologise unreservedly for this Tweet of 6 years ago. I admit I was ignorant of the offence that could be caused by what I said regarding Melanie Phillips, but I realise how inappropriate it was, it was wrong and I fully apologise.” On 30th November 2019, Scram News noted that, earlier that week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had told the Evening Standard: “Obviously whenever we have an incident of anti-Semitism [sic] or Islamophobia or whatever in the Conservative Party, we take a zero-tolerance approach…We have a one-bounce-and-we-deal-with-it approach to this.” Scram News reported that they had contacted the Conservative Party, asking if it would be taking any form of disciplinary action against Mr Short, and whether it would be suspending him as its candidate, but noted that they had not received a response at the time of publication. It was further noted that Mr Short had locked his Twitter account and deleted the cited tweets.

On 7th December 2019, it was reported that the Conservative Party was investigating Mr Short. The Party issued a statement which said: “Discrimination or abuse of any kind is wrong, and the Conservative party takes decisive action to deal with any incidents of hatred, abuse or intimidation. We are committed to stamping out the scourge of antisemitism in our society and supporting our Jewish community. Our complaints process is rightly a confidential one but there are a wide range of sanctions to challenge and change behaviour, including conditions to undertake training, periods of suspension and expulsion, and these are applied on a case-by-case basis.”

Mr Short stood as the Conservative candidate for St Helens South and Whiston on 12th December 2019, but was not elected.

As of 13th May 2020, it is not known whether the investigation against Mr Short has concluded.

In November 2019 we put this matter to Mr Short but did not receive a response.

In November 2019 we put this matter to the Conservative Party. A spokesman said: “This matter is under investigation”.

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 13th May 2020.

Justice, justice, you shall pursue - צדק צדק תרדף
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