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I would not march against anti-Semitism, says Labour frontbencher

Darren Jones, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury
Darren Jones, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury - Rita Franca/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

A Labour frontbencher has said he would not march against anti-Semitism following a rebellion over calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Darren Jones, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said he would not attend any demonstrations in the weeks to come, as he represents constituents “who have different concerns and different opinions about this issue”.

He said all peaceful protests should be allowed to go ahead, but repeatedly dodged questions on whether he would join Sunday’s march himself.

Asked directly whether he would attend the demonstration in London, led by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, he said: “I’ve not gone to any marches in the last few weeks and I don’t intend on going [on] any marches in the future weeks, because I represent constituents who have different concerns and different opinions about this issue.

“It’s my job to represent all of them. That’s why I am not going on any marches.”

But he said “of course” he would stand “in solidarity” with his constituents against anti-Semitism.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, he said: “There is a difference between going on marches and a difference between talking to my constituents locally.”

Major shadow cabinet split

It comes in the wake of a major shadow cabinet split over the crisis in the Middle East, which saw Sir Keir Starmer suffer the biggest rebellion of his leadership to date.

Eight Labour frontbenchers defied their leader over a vote for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on November 15, exposing damaging rifts at the top of the party.

Sir Keir has backed humanitarian pauses in the conflict but refused to demand a ceasefire, despite pressure from within Labour ranks to change tack.

Mr Jones said he didn’t know if any Labour MPs would be attending Sunday’s march, but noted that shadow minister Peter Kyle would be in London.

Pressed on whether that meant his colleagues would be permitted to take part, he said: “I’ve not had any guidance from the Labour Party about the demo today or the demo yesterday, in fact, so I’m not sure what it is that you’re referring to.”

When it was put to him that Labour frontbenches had been told not to attend pro-Palestinian protests, he said: “There is no distinction between peaceful marches on either side of the debate on this issue, as there wouldn’t be on any other issue”.

Laura Trott, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, also declined to say whether she would attend Sunday’s march, stressing she was “focused” on her ministerial duties.

But she insisted the “entire Government” is against anti-Jewish hate.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, she said: “Of course I am and the entire Government is against anti-Semitism. You can see that in the way that we have acted.

“I think that’s a hypothetical on whether I go on the march or not, I’m not going to answer but I think my direction is very clear.”

Backlash against BBC

It comes as the BBC has faced a backlash for banning Jewish employees from participating in Sunday’s demonstration.

Staff working in current affairs and factual journalism who have sought permission to go to the march have been referred to impartiality rules.

According to the rules, editorial staff “should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues”.

Jewish journalists have argued that protesting against racism should not be regarded as a controversial or partisan issue, and that the BBC should not stand in their way.

One MP called for the resignation of Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, saying the decision was “perverse”.

Sunday’s march from the Royal Courts of Justice in London is being billed as the biggest British demonstration against anti-Semitism since 1936.

In that year, Jews and fascists clashed in the Battle of Cable Street during a march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

On Friday, a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC is clear that anti-Semitism is abhorrent. We have established guidance around marches, which explains that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC.

“Corporately, we have not issued any staff communication on any specific march this weekend, but this does not mean discussions which consider the guidance have not taken place between colleagues.”