Hard Left union bruiser Len McCluskey was at the centre of a new Labour anti-Semitism row today after telling Tony Blair‘s former spin chief Peter Mandelson to go away and ‘count his gold’.
The Unite kingpin took to Twitter last night to hastily apologise after aiming the barb at Mr Mandelson, whose father was Jewish, in a BBC Newsnight interview.
He was being asked about the former Hartlepool MP – now Lord Mandelson – praising Sir Keir Starmer‘s new leadership of Labour when he lashed out, saying: I stopped listening to what Peter Mandelson said many many years ago.
‘I would suggest that Peter just goes into a room and counts his gold and not worry about what’s happening in the Labour Party. Leave that to those of us that are interested in ordinary working people.’
He later backed down on social media, tweeting: ‘Before this gets out of hand, let me say language is important and I apologise to Peter Mandelson and anyone else if mine has caused hurt.’
But Jewish MPs and other Labour moderates rounded on the Unite general secretary, a close friend and supporter of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose time in charge was mired by anti-Semitism.
The Unite kingpin took to Twitter last night to hastily apologise after aiming the barb at Mr Mandelson, whose father was Jewish, in a BBC Newsnight interview
He later backed down on social media, tweeting: ‘Before this gets out of hand, let me say language is important and I apologise to Peter Mandelson and anyone else if mine has caused hurt’
Lord Mandelson was a close associate of Tony Blair during his time as prime minister and a former MP for Hartlepool before being made a peer
The London synagogue founder’s grandson who became the original ‘spin doctor’
Peter Mandelson was at the beating heart of the New Labour machine.
Serving as the party’s communications director under Neil Kinnock he became MP for Hartlepool in 1992 and played a key role in rebranding the party and contributing to the 1997 landslide.
His skills behind the scenes saw him labelled the ‘prince of darkness’ and is credited with being one of the first people to be branded a ‘spin doctor’
The now 66-year-old went on to serve as a minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before twice having to resign over scandals involving a mortgage loan and accusations of using his influence to win UK passports for Indian businessmen.
Raised in north London, his paternal grandfather Norman Mandelson was the founder and president of the Harrow United Synagogue.
He told the Jewish Chronicle in 2010 that he was ‘dimly aware of my refracted Jewishness’ when growing up, although his father Tony was an atheist.
He added that he ‘still keeps Friday nights (shabbat)’ adding: ‘It’s not that I am religious. It’s the extended family, which part of me wants to be part of.’
According to family history, Nathan – Peter Mandelson’s great-great-grandfather – was the son of Polish Jew Naphtali Felthusen. Felthusen was a colonel in the 13th Polish Lancers and fought with the Russian 1st Army against Napoleon’s invading French forces in 1812.
For his bravery in battle, Felthusen was awarded a coat of arms by the King of Poland, but he was killed in a skirmish as the French retreated across the River Niemen, in modern-day Lithuania, later that year.
Nathan, however, rebelled against the Russian yoke and became involved in the 1825 Decembrist plot to overthrow Tsar Nicholas I. His reward, according to family tradition, was to be declared King of Poland for a day.
When the Tsarist secret police began hunting the plotters, Nathan fled, making his way to England in 1829.
On arrival, he changed his surname to Mandelson to throw Imperialist secret agents off his scent.
Forced to earn his passage to England, Nathan had worked as a baker, a trade in which he made great use of almonds, or ‘mandel’ in German.
‘Why McCluskey uses tropes that many would consider antisemitic on BBC Newsnight is a question only he can answer.
‘Regardless, he doesn’t get to obfuscate and dictate to us what is and is not anti-Semitic when called out.
‘The ignorance with which these tropes are used by McCluskey and others shows just how pervasive and unchallenged antisemitism is on the hard Left.’
Jewish Labour Movement chairman Mike Katz added: ‘Stay classy, Len. Pretty disgusted by his language on Newsnight.
‘But I’d guess he’s best placed to know what’s anti-Semitic. Just like he’s got more experience of winning general elections than Mandelson.’
Euan Philipps, spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism, added: ‘It is unsurprising but still shocking to hear one of the most senior figures in the British Labour movement seemingly reveal such a poisonous view.
‘Over the last four years Mr McCluskey has at times appeared to dismiss anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, describing it as ”mood music”, but this is the first time he has made such a seemingly anti-Semitic comment himself.
‘We hope the still to be published Equalities and Human Rights Commission into institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party will provide a framework for tackling this kind of anti-Jewish racism, and we look forward to Mr McCluskey’s forthcoming retirement as general secretary of the Unite union.’
Earlier this month Unite, the party’s biggest donor, announced it was reducing its affiliation to Labour by about 10 per cent with Mr McCluskey warning Sir Keir he must represent ‘ordinary working people’.
Sir Keir has been frantically distancing Labour from the disastrous Corbyn era, which culminated in the party being reduced to its worst election defeat since 1935.
The party leader recently delivered his keynote speech to a ‘virtual’ Labour conference with the slogan ‘a new leadership’ on the podium, and has slated the party’s previous handling of allegations about anti-Semitism among activists.
But there has been strong resistance to changes from the Left, with demands for Sir Keir to stick with his predecessor’s platform of nationalisation, massive spending and high tax.
In a previous interview with Newsnight, Mr McCluskey warned: ‘I have no doubt if things start to move in different directions and ordinary working people start saying, well, I’m not sure what Labour stands for.
‘But I don’t see at the moment any dramatic move to disaffiliate from the Labour Party. The Labour Party is our party.’
Mr McCluskey was particularly critical of Labour’s payout to whistleblowers over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism under Mr Corbyn.
‘I think funding arrangements is undoubtedly an issue that may come up,’ Mr McCluskey added.
Mr Mandelson with Tony Blair in the Commons in 2001 when he was Northern Ireland Secretary (left) and (right) at Hillsborough Castle the same year
Jewish MPs and other Labour moderates rounded on the Unite general secretary, a close friend and supporter of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose time in charge was mired by anti-Semitism.