Suspended Lewisham Labour chair defends Emily Thornberry ISIS tweets

Emily Thornberry. Pic: UK Parliament

Emily Thornberry. Pic: UK Parliament

A Lewisham Labour activist suspended for tweeting “They won’t make a sex slave of her [Emily Thornberry]. They’ll behead her and dump her in a mass grave” has defended his comments in a statement published yesterday.

Ian McKenzie, the chairman for the Lewisham East Constituency Labour Party (CLP) tweeted about Thornberry: “Maybe she’d agree sex slavery to one man only, provided he didn’t sell her on or insist on gang rape” in December 2015. He also said that Thornberry, the MP for Islington South and Finsbury, “is too old for ISIS”.

McKenzie has said his comments have been taken out of context and were part of a wider discussion condemning misogyny. He said: “I will not apologise for criticising murderous misogyny.” He added: “I do not believe that ISIS should kill Emily Thornberry, or kill anyone, and believe that it is very clear I have never said I did.”

The tweets came to light on May 20 after columnist and author Owen Jones – who had been engaged in a Twitter spat with McKenzie about the Lewisham East selection for parliamentary candidates for the upcoming by-election – shared them with his 740,000 followers.


The Labour Party and McKenzie confirmed that he has been officially suspended pending investigation.

A Labour Party spokesperson told ELL: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of abuse and discrimination extremely seriously. Any complaints are fully investigated and any appropriate disciplinary action taken in line with our rules and procedures.”

McKenzie has already stepped down from his role as an external policy advisor to Rokhsana Fiaz, the Mayor of Newham.

In his statement McKenzie said his tweets were written when there were parliamentary debates discussing air strikes in Syria and rumours of negotiations between Corbyn and ISIS, with Thornberry at that time being the Shadow Defence Secretary.

He then commented on the acts of ISIS, detailing the terrorist organisation and their human rights abuses, saying: “They kill men and separate women into the young, whom they enslave for sex, and those older, whom they behead and dump in mass graves.”

McKenzie said: “I sought to show the absurdity of negotiating with these murderous misogynistic barbarians. The tweet does that. I wasn’t advocating sex slavery, but condemning it.” McKenzie’s statement can be found here.

However for some the statement was not enough. Mandu Reid, the Women’s Equality Party candidate for Lewisham East told ELL: “These tweets are abhorrent and Labour should have zero tolerance for such misogyny.

“As we have seen in recent months, sexist attitudes and actions occur across the political spectrum. It is infuriating to see factions within the Labour Party using misogyny to score points against their internal opponents, rather than fighting sexism and defending women.

“The residents of Lewisham East are growing tired of Labour’s constant in-fighting.”

McKenzie previously held roles as a special advisor to Baroness Ann Taylor and John Prescott.

McKenzie also backed the candidate Janet Daby, who will stand for Labour in the upcoming by-election.

Lewisham East is holding a by-election on June 14 to elect a new MP, after Heidi Alexander resigned and accepted the role as London’s deputy mayor.

Leave a Reply