Debate needed on antisemitism after MP's Gould remarks

By Jennifer Lipman, December 1, 2011
Matthew Gould

Matthew Gould

A Labour MP has called for "a debate on antisemitism" following another MP's remarks suggesting that the British ambassador to Israel has divided loyalties because he is Jewish.

Denis MacShane, the MP for Rotherham and the author of the book Globalising Hatred. The New Antisemitism, raised the issue during business questions in the House of Commons today.

Paul Flynn, the MP for Newport West, said that Britain needed an ambassador "with roots in the UK [who] can't be accused of having Jewish loyalty".

Describing Mr Gould as "our distinguished ambassador", Mr MacShane said that a debate on the subject would mean it could be made "absolutely clear that we do not have a religious bar in our diplomatic service and that we do not say that Jews cannot serve in Israel or that Catholics cannot serve in Catholic countries or the Holy See, so that we may eradicate antisemitism once and for all from public discourse in our country?"

His comments were supported by Sir George Young, the Leader of the House, who said: "The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is an equal opportunity employer.

"It is inconceivable that it would apply any sort of prejudice of the type to which he refers in deciding who should be our ambassador in any part of the world."

Mr Flynn wrote on Twitter earlier that "if you are in politics long enough, I suppose everyone is accused of everything".

In response to suggestions that Labour leader Ed Miliband considered his comments "totally unacceptable", Mr Flynn added: "It's a shame you did not contact me and discover the truth before reacting to my remarks. Ian Gibson syndrome."

Last updated: 10:17am, December 2 2011