Mike Amesbury, the Labour MP for Weaver Vale in north west England and the Shadow Minister for Employment, has apologised after sharing what he described as an “antisemitic caricature” on Facebook.
The caricature shared by Mr Amesbury was first highlighted by blogger David Collier and has now been deleted. It was of a sneering man with a hooked nose in a Santa Claus hat saying: “Remember to support the banks and corporations this Christmas in their continued efforts to enslave mankind, by spending money you haven’t got on things you don’t need.” It was reportedly taken from the conspiracy website IlluminatiAgenda.com.
The caricature of a hooked-nose Jew is commonly used in antisemitic social media memes and was a key feature in antisemitic Nazi propaganda, while the reference to Jews controlling banking is a well-known antisemitic conspiracy theory.
Last night, Mr Amesbury denied that he had shared the post at all, tweeting: “I did not send this vile nonsense and never would.” He then reportedly deleted his tweet after it was pointed out to him that the post he had shared could still be seen on his Facebook page. The original post was also removed.
He then released a statement and apology on Facebook, writing: “This evening a post share from 2013 was brought to my attention. I apologise unreservedly for this terrible error. I genuinely don’t recall sharing this image and I’m mortified that I did so. This appalling image contains an antisemitic caricature and a reference to the ‘illuminati’ conspiracy theory. I would never have intentionally shared such antisemitic tropes and I am sincerely sorry that I did. I have always been committed to opposing antisemitism and I always will be. In November last year I went to Auschwitz with the Holocaust Education Trust and local schools from my constituency. This moving experience reaffirmed my commitment to working with the Jewish community to increase education and awareness about antisemitism and to fight this evil wherever it is found.”
It is clear that Mr Amesbury did share the post and, despite apologising, has given no adequate explanation of how he came to post it. In doing so, he echoed the behaviour of others who have disseminated antisemitic material who later claimed not to have done so, such as Mr Amesbury’s colleague on the shadow front bench, the Labour MP Afzhal Khan. Mr Khan had compared Israel to Nazi Germany, later claiming that his post was a mistake, due to him being “new to Twitter”.
Mr Amesbury’s apology is welcome, but it will leave many wondering whether it is really possible that he posted an image that was no less obviously antisemitic than the notorious mural for which Jeremy Corbyn expressed support.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has begun pre-enforcement proceedings against the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant. The pre-enforcement proceedings are a precursor to opening a full statutory investigation.
In the past six months, eleven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party over antisemitism.