Union leaders have written to Liz Truss, asking her to back up her claim of antisemitism in the civil service by handing over any evidence she has to cabinet secretary Simon Case.
The FDA and Prospect have slammed the Conservative leadership candidate’s claim last week that she would “change woke civil service culture that strays into antisemitism” if she becomes prime minister.
Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy and FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the claims were “without foundation and offensive”, in a joint letter to Truss sent on Friday.
“If you have genuine concerns about antisemitism or any other form of discrimination in the civil service, those are issues which should be raised with the cabinet secretary for them to be investigated,” they said.
The union chiefs asked the foreign secretary if she had ever informed a cabinet secretary about any specific concerns or instances of antisemitism in the civil service during her decade-long tenure as a minister.
“If you are to make such serious allegations, you have a duty to ensure they are backed up with evidence. We would therefore suggest that such evidence is made available as a matter of urgency to the cabinet secretary for investigation,” they added.
The duo said Truss’s comments were particularly harmful given she could become the next PM, with the foreign secretary now the bookies’ favourite to win the leadership battle against former chancellor Rishi Sunak.
“The UK prime minister is also the minister for the civil service. For such unfounded and sweeping assertions to be made, by someone with aspirations for that office, is deeply damaging and undermines those working to drive forward diversity, inclusion and an open and welcoming culture in the civil service,” they said.
The press release containing the claim repeated comments Truss made in an interview last week with the Jewish Chronicle,
“Every organisation has its culture, but it’s not fixed, it can be changed,” Truss told the publication.
“That’s what ministerial leadership is about: it’s about making sure that the policies we represent, the values we stand for, are reflected in what we do. I’ve been very clear with our officials about the positions we take on Israel, and that will continue if I become prime minister.”
She did not give any further explanation of her objections to civil service culture in the interview, but did accuse Foreign Office staff of resisting her efforts to tackle it.
She said she had taken a “strong stand in tackling antisemitism at the international level”, particularly within the UN Human Rights Council. She said she had had to “overrule” Foreign Office officials who had told her that her plans would lead to Britain becoming “isolated”.
Asked on Friday what the “woke civil service culture that strays into antisemitism” claim meant and how Truss would change it, a Liz For Leader campaign spokesperson pointed CSW to the JC interview and said they had nothing further to add.