U.K. Labour Conference Speakers Compare Conservative Agenda to Nazi Policies

One speaker compares proposed strike legislation to Nazi treatment of trade unionists at Dachau, while another says that, if changes to human rights law are passed, disabled people 'might as well walk into the gas chamber.'

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Haaretz
Britain's opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn listens to speakers at the annual Labour Party Conference in Brighton, U.K., September 28, 2015.
Britain's opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn listens to speakers at the annual Labour Party Conference in Brighton, U.K., September 28, 2015.Credit: Reuters
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Haaretz

Two speakers at the U.K. Labour Party’s conference caused controversy this week when they compared British government policies to those of Nazi Germany.

Speaking on Monday in Brighton, Len McCluskey, the head of Unite, the largest trade union in the U.K., argued that government plans to force striking workers to wear official armbands resembled “the concentration camps of Dachau."

Meanwhile, fellow delegate to the conference Sioux Blair-Jordan, a Labour activist from Colchester, said that disabled people “might as well walk into the gas chamber” if government plans to alter British human rights legislation went through.

These remarks came on the second day of the first annual meeting of the U.K.’s main opposition party since the election of its new left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was captured on video hugging Blair-Jordan after her speech. Before comparing Conservative plans for a British Bill of Rights to the Nazi gas chambers, she told delegates to the conference: “I’ve met [Corbyn] a few times, he gives wonderful hugs.”

According to the Huffington Post, she also said: “We need the disabled and the sick to be seen as human beings. We need the Labour Party to support us, to turn the tide of denomination, vilification and dehumanization of the sick and the disabled in this country."

Speaking to the Express, a spokesman for the U.K.-based Campaign Against Antisemitism said: "Sioux Blair-Jordan's reference to gas chambers was gratuitous and offensive. Over six million Jews as well as others including the disabled were murdered during the Holocaust, many of them in gas chambers.

"Many Jewish people in Britain have relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. The Labour Party should be condemning comparisons to the Holocaust like Blair-Jordan's, but instead we saw Jeremy Corbyn hugging her warmly after her speech.”

The Conservative government’s Justice Minister said in a statement to The Sun newspaper: “It is delusional, and shows extraordinarily bad taste, for Labour conference to applaud a delegate who equated the government’s common sense human rights reforms to Nazis sending innocent people to the gas chambers.

“Jeremy Corbyn should apologize immediately for embracing rather than distancing himself from the delegate. It points directly to his unfitness to lead.”

A Labour spokesperson told The Jewish News that “These views are not shared by the Labour Party.”

Trade union leader McCluskey’s comments came as part of a speech in which he expressed his anger about the government’s proposed Trade Union Bill. In his speech to delegates, he said: "I will be on the picket line when Unite members are on strike and I will not be wearing an armband with a red triangle like the trade union prisoners.

"Conference, remember, that's what the Nazis did - trade unionists in the concentration camps of Dachau - made to wear armbands with red triangles. We won't be doing that."

The Labour Party annual conference continues until Wednesday, with its new leader’s speech taking place later today. The Guardian reported that he will say: “It is because I love this country, that I want to rid it of injustice, to make it more fair, more decent, more equal.”

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