Labour suspends official accused of ‘virulently anti-Jewish’ tweets dating back years

Exclusive: Vivien Burke has stepped down from her role in Romford Labour during the investigation


The Labour Party has suspended a local party official after tweets downplaying or denying antisemitism in the party were uncovered, the JC can reveal.

It is understood that Vivien Burke, listed as the ‘Vice Chair – Membership' of Romford Labour, will be subject to an investigation after tweets were revealed in which she allegedly called claims of antisemitism a “witch hunt”, said that former Labour MP Joan Ryan and current leader Sir Keir Starmer are “paid puppet[s]” for Israel, and implied that a “Jewish lobby” is trying to “gag” people criticising Israel.

Alex Hearn, a director for campaign organisation Labour Against Antisemitism, who uncovered Ms Burke’s alleged tweets, described the content as “virulently anti-Jewish" and called on the Labour Party to expel her.

Since 2017, Ms Burke has sent numerous tweets that downplay or deny antisemitism within the Labour Party. In May 2017 when Ken Livingstone facing expulsion from the party, she said in reply to a tweet by him that she was “dismayed at the Witch Hunt and the bullying going on against you”.

A month prior, she responded to a tweet by a Jewish journalist about Ken Livingstone, saying: “OMG this is definitely turning into a witch hunt the man is not a racist fought all his life against it! Get a grip.”

She has described claims of antisemitism in Labour as a “smear”, and said that claims of antisemitism were inflated to protect Israel. In April 2018 at the height of the Labour antisemitism crisis, she tweeted: “I’m not sure [that] antisemitism is on the rise but anti-Israeli behaviour towards Palestinians definitely is!! And I now believe Zionist[s] are trying to make the antisemitism row bigger to smokescreen the appalling murders being conducted by Israel!”

And the following month, in reply to a tweet from a Jewish Twitter activist about antisemitism in Labour, she wrote: “Would have more sympathy if the Jewish vote in Barnet went somewhere else other than the vile racist Tories...”

In June, in response to a tweet that described the Board of Deputies of British Jews as “apologists for Israeli Murdering of unarmed Palestinian civilians”, Ms Burke wrote: “Spot on! Took the words right out of my mouth! I too am bored with their cry wolf to get sympathy their brethren are now conducting similar atrocities as the Nazi’s but SILENCE from them. Their credibility is lost as they have a racist agenda!!”

The comparison of Israel and the Nazis is a recurring theme in Ms Burke’s tweets. In a tweet that same month, she described it as the “Nazi state of Zionist Israel” and described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “raving lunatic like Hitler”.

Ms Burke has also tweeted about how a “Jewish” or “Israeli lobby” control politicians and governments abroad. In June 2018, she tweeted: “When [Benjamin] Netanyahu comes to [the] UK, we should make it clear, ‘No more arms’. But [then prime minister Theresa] May will be like [former US president Donald Trump]. Puppet on [a] string.” She added cash bag emojis.

In May 2019, she described former Labour MP Joan Ryan as a “a paid puppet for the foreign state of Israel”, using cash bag emojis once again.

And in December of the same year, she stated that people who criticised Israel would be “attacked by a very powerful smearing machine”.

Ms Burke has also defended disgraced former Labour MP Chris Williamson, writing in July 2019: “People may want Chris out but what he was accused of and actually said was not antisemitic.”

In April 2020, responding to a report that Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer had received a £50,000 donation from Trevor Chinn, a long-time supporter of Labour Friends of Israel, she tweeted: “It’s as if a foreign country has too much influence over the Labour Party! Give the monies back, we don’t need their monies! Only to be a puppet dancing to their tune!!”

And in another tweet about the donation, she wrote: “We want our leaders to be their own man/woman not beholden to any domestic or Foreign lobbyists!”

As recently as last month, Ms Burke ‘liked’ a tweet that read: “The madness of the Zionism project. It’s no different to the rise of the Nazism in the 1930s."

And she also liked a tweet that read: “We see how hollow the antisemitism smear is when the expert is allowed to respond in full.”

Ms Burke has been an active member of Romford Labour; on Saturday, a photo was posted to the Romford Labour Twitter account showing her, along with other activists, out campaigning for the party in the local area.

In the May 2022 local elections, she stood as a Labour Party candidate for the Squirrels Heath ward in Havering, but was unsuccessful, winning 871 votes, or 19.9 per cent of the vote.

The JC understands that Ms Burke has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation, and Romford Labour has told the JC that she has stepped down from her role as a Vice Chair while the investigation is underway.

Hope Wilson-Mendy, Chair of Romford Labour, said in a statement: “Antisemitism has no place in the Labour Party, and Romford Labour is committed to combating all forms of racism.

“The local Labour party was unaware that Vivien Burke had been suspended from the party, and Vivien has since stepped down to deal with the complaint against her in the correct manner.

“Romford Labour has a diverse membership and members of all faiths are welcomed and valued.”

Alex Hearn, a director for campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism, who uncovered Ms Burke’s alleged tweets, expressed concerns about the Labour Party’s vetting procedures for candidates, saying in a statement: “It is concerning that an official of the Labour Party has been publicly posting virulently anti-Jewish rhetoric in plain sight for so long. It is also troubling that Labour’s selection process allowed Vivien Burke to stand as a candidate last year, an obvious failure of its vetting systems.

“Ms Burke’s conspiracy theories such as ‘a very powerful smearing machine’ are reminiscent of far-right politician Marjorie Greene’s ‘space laser’ comments in the US. We call for Ms Burke to be expelled from the Labour Party.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "All complaints are taken seriously and assessed in accordance with our rules and procedures."

Vivien Burke has been approached for comment.

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