The Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon, faced repeated questions about Labour’s record on antisemitism during the first day of his libel action against the Sun newspaper at the High Court in London this week.
Mr Burgon is suing the Sun for claiming he played in a heavy metal band that used Nazi imagery on an album cover.
Lawyers acting for the tabloid asked whether the Shadow Justice Secretary would hypothetically be willing to perform a song with the band – called Dream Tröll - in front of the disputed artwork at a gig in areas with large Jewish populations such as “parts of north London” or Tel Aviv.
Mr Burgon repeatedly insisted that he would not appear on a stage that featured Third Reich iconography, but said that the artwork at the heart of the dispute was influenced by the 1970s band Black Sabbath, not the Nazis.
“I do not accept that it is Nazi iconography. It is a pastiche or spoof of an album by a famous rock band from the 1970s,” he said.
The article, published in April 2017, claimed the typeface used for the letter “S” in a Dream Tröll social media post entitled “We Sold Our Soul For Rock N Tröll” paid homage to the logo of Adolf Hitler’s SS paramilitary organisation, which played a key role in the Holocaust.
Mr Burgon was also accused by lawyers of “using expensive lawyers to shut down references to antisemitism in the press” and was repeatedly asked about comments about the Holocaust made by former mayor of London Ken Livingstone and the decision by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to support a graffiti artist whose work featured antisemitic tropes.
Mr Burgon said he was deeply concerned about antisemitism within Labour and had “never denied there is an issue with this gravest of matters”, but insisted that it was unconnected to his involvement with the band.
Continuing his evidence on the second day of the case, Mr Burgon said he was “very distressed” about the publication of the article, which his lawyers said involved a “deliberate misrepresentation” for political reasons.
Adam Wolanski QC, acting for the Sun, asked: “Is it fair to say you don’t like the Sun very much?”
Mr Burgon responded: “I probably like them as much as they like me.”
In his witness statement to the court, Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn, who is a joint defendant alongside his newspaper, said: “I remain firmly of the opinion that it is completely inappropriate for [Burgon] to maintain associations with imagery, iconography and cultural references which are offensive, provocative and potentially upsetting to a number of everyday British citizens.”
The court will hear final statements today.