Ex-minister defiant as Tory party launches probe into antisemitism claims

A former Conservative minister has said the decision to investigate him over accusations he used “antisemitic tropes” could prove “dangerously harmful” to the party’s reputation.

Sir Alan Duncan said the Conservative Party had not informed him of its decision to open a disciplinary investigation into him following an interview on LBC in which he accused two Tory peers of “exercising the interests of another country”.

The former MP, who served as a Foreign Office minister under Theresa May, claimed the Conservative Friends of Israel group was “doing the bidding of Netanyahu” and called for two of its prominent members: Lord Polak and Lord Pickles; to be “removed from the House of Lords”.

He said: “I think the time has come to flush out those extremists in our own parliamentary politics and around it.”

General Election 2017 aftermath
The former minister accused Lord Pickles of ‘exercising the interests of another country’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

It is understood that the Conservative Party wrote to Sir Alan following his interview to inform him he had been placed under investigation, a process that could result in his expulsion from the party.

In a statement, Sir Alan said: “Although I have heard nothing myself, I have been told by many in the media that the Conservative Party has issued a statement to say that I am to be investigated by them with a view to expulsion.

“They did not lay out any substantive grounds for their action.

“If this is indeed their intention, I will probably be the only person ever to be reproached for upholding his Party’s policy and for defending the principles of international law and justice in the face of others who would undermine them.

“Should they choose to pursue this they should not be surprised if it rebounds on them massively and proves dangerously harmful to their own reputation.”

His comments on LBC brought condemnation from the Jewish Leadership Council and the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which both accused Sir Alan of using “antisemitic tropes”.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said it was “not the first time that he has made accusations of parliamentarians being controlled by Israel” and called for him to be expelled from the party.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews echoed those calls, saying: “The comments by Sir Alan Duncan effectively accuse two Conservative peers, one of whom is Jewish, of dual loyalties.

“This is disgraceful; we understand the Conservatives have opened an investigation into Sir Alan’s conduct and we believe the party should consider whether his position as a party member is tenable.”

Lord Polak, who is Jewish, served as director of the Conservative Friends of Israel for 26 years and is now its honorary president while Lord Pickles chairs the group in the Lords and is also the UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues.

In his interview, Sir Alan also accused several ministers and former ministers of not supporting international law by failing to condemn illegal settlements, including: security minister Tom Tugendhat; Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden;; Communities Secretary Michael Gove; and former home secretary, Suella Braverman.

In a subsequent interview with Times Radio, he said: “I think we’re entitled to call them extremists. They should be called out.”