Liz Truss: My pledge to Britain's Jews

Exclusive: The Tory leadership contender promised that she would 'eradicate the scourge of antisemitism'


Tory leadership contender Liz Truss has promised to “eradicate the scourge of antisemitism” in an exclusive interview with the JC.

Speaking as she visited a synagogue near Manchester, the Foreign Secretary spoke of her determination to ensuring all schools and universities are safe for Britain’s Jews.

Her pledges also include an assurance that the UK will do all it can to stop Iran building a nuclear weapon; action to change civil service “woke” culture, including within the Foreign Office; and trying to slash exorbitant roaming phone charges UK visitors pay in Israel.

The frontrunner in the race to succeed Boris Johnson also revealed her long-standing personal relationship with the Jewish community going back to her school days in Leeds.

Speaking after meeting the congregation at Hale synagogue in Trafford, just to the south of Manchester, she said she had been “absolutely appalled” by last month’s JC survey revealing that antisemitic incidents in schools have tripled in the past five years, while only 3.6 per cent of schools have policies to deal with it. She said: “I want to see the scourge of antisemitism eradicated. That means driving it out from our culture, starting with the schools.”

She said she had been “particularly disturbed” to read that Jewish children have been hissed after attending classes on the Holocaust, in imitation of the sound of the gas chambers — and yet many staff seem not to know what this means.

“There have to be mandatory policies in place and we need to make sure staff are educated to understand that. On the other hand, the rise of antisemitism isn’t only a problem for schools. We have to eradicate it in our wider society as well.”

She said she was also committed to ridding campuses of antisemitism, as seen in the case of the now-sacked Bristol University professor David Miller.

Ms Truss added that she had also taken a “strong stand in tackling antisemitism at the international level” – notably within the UN Human Rights Council, where she added her voice to that of her “good friend” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. “Bodies like the Human Rights Council have been used to peddle a particular agenda which frankly have strong elements of antisemitism,” she told the JC.

But she revealed that when she did so, she had to “overrule” Foreign Office officials who voiced doubts, claiming it would lead to Britain becoming “isolated”.

She said she accepted there were some civil servants — including Arabists at the Foreign Office — who did not share her views, even when she was sure of what was “the right thing to do”.

Ms Truss said: “Every organisation has its culture, but it’s not fixed, it can be changed.

“That’s what ministerial leadership is about: it’s about making sure that the policies we represent, the values we stand for, are reflected in what we do. I’ve been very clear with our officials about the positions we take on Israel, and that will continue if I become Prime Minister.”

Turning to the renewed efforts to revive the international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Ms Truss said: “We have to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons. That is very, very clear.”

However, she declined to be drawn on whether she would back military action against the Islamic Republic if it seemed it was in the verge of acquiring a functional Bomb, promising only that she would “do what it takes” in conjunction with global and regional allies – Israel included - to prevent this from happening.

She said Britain was also working with allies to curb Iranian support for its terror proxies – including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which fired more than 1,000 Iran-funded rockets against Israel last weekend.

In comments that will delight British visitors to Israel, Ms Truss said she would like to see the current very high roaming charges imposed by UK mobile phone operators reduced – with British users paying up to £3 a minute to receive and make calls in Israel, with similarly exorbitant rates for texts and data. Ms Truss said such high charges were clearly “a barrier to doing business”, and the “whole point of trade deals is that they lower barriers of this kind, and that’s something I’m always enthusiastic about”.

She added: “I can’t go into the details of the deal, but from agriculture to technology, this is all about forging much closer links with Israel – and of course the ability to use your mobile at an affordable rate is a closer link.”

Looking back on her long-standing friendships with members of the Jewish community, she said:“I grew up in Leeds where there’s a large Jewish community and I had lots of Jewish friends at school.

“One of my close friends eventually moved to Tel Aviv, actually. I saw him quite recently when I was on an official visit – I met up with him and he’s now a patent agent in Tel Aviv.

“Of course that’s a good place to be a patent agent, because Israel is a very innovative country.”

Ms Truss recalled how after leaving Oxford University, she worked  at Shell in the division that dealt with handling contracts for liquid natural gas, where her immediate boss and mentor was an observant Orthodox Jew.

She said: “He was the best boss I ever had and a very big influence on me. I remember that at work it was great during the winter because he would leave early for Shabbat every Friday. In the summer he was there until much later. That was one of my first experiences seeing how Jewish life could be incorporated into corporate life and it really impressed me how proud he was of his religion.

“He mentored me and encouraged me and was a very astute negotiator. I watched and learned. He was a very determined man and he would always get the deal over the line – as I tried to do as Trade Secretary.

“He was quite a maverick within the organisation – I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this – he didn’t always adhere to the Shell way of doing things but he was a very creative and a very good man. He gave me a lot of responsibility when I was at quite a young age, and I learnt a lot from him about getting things done.”

The bookies’ favourite to be next Prime Minister said: “So many Jewish values are Conservative values and British values too, for example seeing the importance of family and always taking steps to protect the family unit; and the value of hard work and self-starting and setting up your own business.

“The British Jewish community is incredibly proud of this country and so are Conservatives.”

READ MORE: Liz Truss gives backing for Holocaust Memorial to be built in Westminster

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