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UK politician lampoons Tory finances
The chairman of Britain's ruling Labour party has sparked a row by describing a senior opposition politician of Jewish origin as a 21st century Fagin.
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2004 23:47 GMT
Top right, Oliver Letwin's financial policies compared to Fagin's
The chairman of Britain's ruling Labour party has sparked a row by describing a senior opposition politician of Jewish origin as a 21st century Fagin.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, chairman Ian McCartney compared Oliver Letwin, the opposition Conservatives' finance spokesman, to the Jewish villain in Charles Dickens's 19th century novel Oliver Twist.

McCartney's speech meant to rally Scottish Labour deputies at their annual conference certainly caused a stir.
  
During an attack on opposition Conservative Party spending plans, McCartney also lampooned Letwin, the descendant of Jewish refugees from Ukraine, as Slasher Letwin.
  
"What would life under Slasher Letwin look like? No Oliver Twist, this man is more of a Fagin." 
  
Unamused

One Jewish leader, Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue, took particular offence at the chairman's caricature.

"I find the remark highly offensive. It is a throwback to the worst kind of stereotype from a bygone age. 
  

"What would life under Slasher Letwin look like? No Oliver Twist, this man is more of a Fagin"

Ian McCartney,
Labour chairman

"It is totally gratuitous to compare someone to a fictitious Jewish villain from 1837. Consciously or otherwise it is a reference to Mr Letwin's face rather than his politics."
  
But McCartney said in a statement that it was "absolute nonsense" to say his scripted remarks were racist. 
  
Anti-Jewish?

"I have spent all my life campaigning against racism and anti-Semitism. No one who reads the remarks in context could interpret them in that way."
  
However, a UK poll last month suggested that anti-Jewish sentiment was rising.

One poll showed that 20% of British people would not elect a Jewish prime minister, 14% that the Holocaust had been exaggerated, and 19% that Jews had too much influence.

Source:
AFP
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