BBC defends ‘mansion tax’ remark after viewers’ complaints

By Marcus Dysch, November 12, 2014
Tim Willcox and Jo Phillips during the BBC's newspaper review (Photo: Campaign Against Antisemitism/YouTube)

Tim Willcox and Jo Phillips during the BBC's newspaper review (Photo: Campaign Against Antisemitism/YouTube)

The BBC has received 33 complaints after a commentator referred to a “Jewish lobby” during a newspaper review.

The remarks were made by political observer and former spin doctor Jo Phillips during a broadcast on the BBC News channel on Saturday night.

She had joined a panel discussing the Independent on Sunday’s front page story which carried the headline “Jewish donors drop ‘toxic’ Miliband” and claimed communal support for the party had ebbed away

Referring to the story, Ms Phillips said: “What you get is a lot of unnamed people, from the sort of Jewish lobby, and obviously, you know, they’ve been very supportive of the Labour party, and they are abandoning ‘toxic’ Labour.

“But they are not abandoning it because of Ed Miliband’s personal ratings, according to this, it’s because of what Ed Miliband actually said in the summer, his aggressive condemnation of Israel’s disproportionate attacks and incursion into Gaza.”

Those comments were followed by presenter Tim Willcox asking: "A lot of these prominent Jewish faces will be very much against the political mansion tax presumably?"

References were also made to Maureen Lipman’s revelation that she would not vote for the party in next May’s election.

Campaigners against antisemitism had complained to the BBC about the remarks.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the BBC said: "The comments were made about the Independent on Sunday story which claimed that unnamed Jewish donors were withdrawing financial support from Ed Miliband over Israel.

“Tim named Maureen Lipman in this context, and as part of a wider discussion, asked if Labour's 'mansion tax' policy was one of the factors that might put off some of the Jewish donors cited by the paper from contributing to Labour's election coffers.

“It was clear that he was not suggesting that Jewish people in particular are against the mansion tax."

The newspaper article had made no reference to the mansion tax.

Following the broadcast at 11.30pm on Saturday, Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The idea that a wealthy Jewish lobby uses money to manipulate political policy is a centuries-old antisemitic trope.

“The BBC’s unchallenged promotion of this slur is a shocking example of what many Jews feel is institutional antisemitism by the broadcaster.

“Many people have contacted us to express their outrage. The BBC claimed that the ‘Jewish lobby’ is thwarting a ‘principled’ foreign policy position, but there is no factual basis for this accusation.

“Also, with no evidence at all, the BBC claimed that wealthy Jews are challenging taxation proposals to hang onto their mansions.”

Community Security Trust communications director Mark Gardner said the remarks were part of a “very slippery slope” which had the “significant potential to turn toxic for Jews who are active in politics, as politicians, donors, lobbyists or in any capacity”.

Last updated: 5:47pm, November 12 2014