Liz Truss has set out a plan to “protect British Jewry” from “creeping antisemitism” and “woke culture” in the civil service, while praising Jews for holding values such as protecting the family unit and setting up businesses.
The Conservative leadership candidate published a plan that targets “woke civil service culture that strays into antisemitism”. She did not give examples of this but it is thought to be a reference to councils and their pension funds that participate in boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) policies that involve cutting ties with businesses that invest in Israel.
“Every organization has its culture, but it’s not fixed, it can be changed,” she said. “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.”
The government is already legislating to outlaw BDS policies being pursued by public bodies, to ban “boycotts that general community cohesion”.
Truss also challenged whether schools were doing enough to educate pupils and teachers about antisemitism and claimed she would rid university campuses of anti-Jewish hatred.
At the same time, she set out her own view of Jewish values, saying: “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.”
Previously, Truss has told the Conservative Friends of Israel that as prime minister she would review whether to move the UK’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv – following in the footsteps of Donald Trump.
A source on her campaign also accused Keir Starmer’s Labor of being a “talking shop for antisemitism and anti-Zionism” despite his efforts to stamp out the party’s problems since taking over as leader.
Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil and public servants, called Truss’s comments about the civil service straying into antisemitism “insulting and abhorrent”.
“The Conservatives have been in government for more than 12 years now and, for most of that time, Liz Truss has been a minister. So accusations of ‘civil service wakeism’ are a little ironic, given it’s essentially a criticism of their own leadership,” he said.
“However, Truss’s accusation of antisemitism goes further than the usual dog-whistle politics that has been on display during this leadership campaign when it comes to the civil service. She provides no evidence for her accusation that many civil servants will find both insulting and abhorrent.
“A prime minister is also minister for the civil service, and throwing around such unfounded inflammatory accusations illustrates a lack of leadership, the very thing that she claims to be demonstrating.”