Labour frontbench MPs join Labour Friends of Israel as new vice-chairs

Andrew Kersley

Several of Keir Starmer’s Labour frontbench MPs have joined Labour Friends of Israel as newly appointed vice-chairs of the organisation that now includes a third of shadow cabinet members.

LFI has announced six new vice-chairs as follows:

  • Rosie Cooper – MP for West Lancashire, elected in 2005. Cooper is a member of the health and social care select committee.
  • Chris Evans – MP for Islwyn, elected in 2010. Evans is parliamentary private secretary to Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey.
  • Diana Johnson – MP for Kingston upon Hull North, elected in 2005. Johnson is a former shadow Middle East minister, and a current member of both the home affairs select committee and the intelligence and security committee.
  • Peter Kyle – MP for Hove, elected in 2015. Kyle is currently shadow victims and youth justice minister.
  • Conor McGinn – MP for St Helens North, elected in 2015. McGinn is a shadow security minister.
  • Catherine McKinnell – MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne North, elected in 2010. McKinnell is co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism.

The new intake will join LFI’s current parliamentary vice-chairs – shadow cabinet members Rachel Reeves and Jonathan Reynolds, frontbenchers Pat McFadden and Sharon Hodgson, plus backbencher John Spellar.

They make up LFI’s officers group, along with chair in the House of Commons Steve McCabe and chair in the Lords Labour peer Meta Ramsay. McCabe replaced Dame Louise Ellman in February this year.

Commenting on the new appointments, LFI chair Steve McCabe said: “I’m delighted to welcome my colleagues as new LFI vice-chairs. Together with our existing group of LFI officers, they demonstrate the widespread support for LFI that exists across the Labour party.

“The LFI officers group represents a wide range of parliamentarians, united by our support for Israel and a two-state solution. I look forward to working with our new vice-chairs – and all our supporters in parliament – to continue to oppose antisemitism and stand up for Israel.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy recently announced that Labour would support a ban on imports of West Bank goods if Israel pursues its controversial annexation plans in the disputed region.

In response to the policy, LFI said it “totally opposes imposing sanctions on Israel” on the basis that the move would “serve only to weaken those in Israel fighting annexation” and embolden the Israeli right’s “bunker mentality”.

As of July 2020, around a quarter of the Parliamentary Labour Party and a third of the shadow cabinet were members of the group, including Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy and Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry.

In July, LFI director Jennifer Gerber stood down after a decade in the role, saying it had been a “huge honour” to lead the group. She was replaced by Michael Rubin, previously political director of the organisation.

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