The Liz Truss campaign’s claim that she will tackle “woke” civil service culture that “strays into antisemitism” have been strongly condemned by the union representing government staff.
The FDA said the comments were “inflammatory” and will be viewed as “insulting and abhorrent” – saying they “go further than the usual dog-whistle politics” of the Conservative leadership election.
The Truss campaign put out a press release said vowed to “change woke civil service culture that strays into antisemitism”.
Referring to the civil service, Ms Truss said: “Every organisation has its culture, but it’s not fixed, it can be changed.”
In further remarks, the foreign secretary added: “I’ve been very clear with our officials about the positions we take on Israel, and that will continue if I become prime minister.”
In response, the FDA’s general secretary Dave Penman said Truss had provided “no evidence for her accusation that many civil servants will find both insulting and abhorrent”.
The union leader said: “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 wokeism’ are a little ironic, given it’s essentially a criticism of their own leadership.”
Penman added: “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.”
Labour MP Margaret Hodge – who has campaigned to rid her party of antisemitism – accused Truss of using the issue trying to stoke “culture war” divisions.
“Using antisemitism to peddle the right’s “anti-woke agenda” is below the belt. The oldest form of racism is not a tool to use in the divisive culture war nonsense,” she tweeted.
Alexander Rose, former government lawyer, said he had seen no sign of antisemitism oin the civil service. “I’m a former civil servant and her comments are inconsistent with what I experienced,” he tweeted.
He added: “I was in a small team with two Jewish people and a couple of Muslims. Everyone got on. They not only respected each another’s beliefs, they showed an active interest. It’s how it should be.”
The foreign secretary also said set her sights on boosting links between the UK and Israel, with a plan to secure a free-trade deal, her campaign said.
In a written statement issued after she spoke at a synagogue in Manchester, she also pledged to review whether schools are doing enough to educate pupils and teachers about antisemitism, according to her team.
The Truss campaign also she wanted to make sure university campuses were “ridded” antisemitism.
A campaign source claimed that Labour has been a “talking shop for antisemitism and anti-Zionism” under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, and formerly Jeremy Corbyn. “This has increased anxieties within the Jewish community,” they said.