23 April 2020 — The Electronic Intifada
Trevor Chinn (left) at an event he co-hosted in 2018 with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev (second left). Chinn for years funded anti-Corbyn efforts. (UJIA)
A multi-millionaire pro-Israel lobbyist donated $62,000 to help Keir Starmer win the UK Labour Party’s leadership election, it was revealed last week.
The official register of lawmakers’ financial interests shows that Trevor Chinn donated the sum as part of Starmer’s leadership campaign.
During the campaign Starmer said “I support Zionism without qualification.” Since his election he has tilted the party sharply towards Israel.
Starmer came under criticism for not disclosing all his donors during the campaign itself, when Labour members were deciding who should replace Jeremy Corbyn.
The donation from Chinn was not registered until five days after Starmer won the election, although it was received in February.
Although there is no suggestion of illegality, Labour members may consider this a violation of their trust.
A retired auto industry mogul, Chinn has in the past funded both Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel.
He also plays a leading role in the Israel lobby groups BICOM and the Jewish Leadership Council.
In 2018, Chinn co-hosted a high-profile celebration of the life of late Israeli president Chaim Herzog, attended by Israeli ambassador Mark Regev. Published photos show that Tony Blair also attended.
He donated to the Labour Party during the Tony Blair years, but mostly ended that relationship after Corbyn, a lifelong Palestinian rights supporter, won the leadership in 2015.
The exception to this was Chinn’s funding of anti-Corbyn Labour members of Parliament, including deputy leader Tom Watson, former BICOM staffer Ruth Smeeth and Labour Friends of Israel’s then chair Joan Ryan.
All three played key roles in promoting the smear campaign that Corbyn’s Labour Party was a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
Chinn in 2016 also donated to Dan Jarvis, a Labour lawmaker who was at the time seen as a potential successor to Jeremy Corbyn.
Later that year Labour lawmakers staged a coup against Corbyn, hoping to remove him as leader. Chinn funded Corbyn’s rival in the resultant leadership election, Owen Smith.
Smith took donations for his campaign from Chinn totaling $33,000, the register shows.
During the 2015 leadership election, which ultimately resulted in Corbyn’s first victory, Chinn funded Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate who came last with a mere 4.5 percent of the vote.
In 2014, Chinn halted his annual donations to the Tricycle Theatre over its decision to decline funding from the Israeli embassy for a film festival it was planning to host.
“We can’t accept boycotts and whenever one comes along we have to fight it,” Chinn told The Jewish News at the time.
“The Tricycle is going to lose a lot of audience members and a lot of financial support.”
The North London theater ultimately reversed its decision after being threatened by Sajid Javid, then Britain’s culture minister.
Javid later boasted about this threat to the theater, which had been secret at the time. The Israeli ambassador also intervened in the affair, documents released under freedom of information law showed.
Chinn’s $62,000 donation to Starmer’s campaign was the fourth highest amount from an individual donor – not including trade unions and companies.
Public sector union UNISON and service workers union USDAW donated $39,000 and almost $31,000 respectively. Another major trade union, Unite, supported Starmer’s leadership campaign rival Rebecca Long-Bailey.
At more than $123,000 each, the joint-top donors were Robert Latham and Waheed Alli.
Latham is a lawyer who once worked in the same firm as Starmer, and Alli is a fashion mogul and Labour member of the House of Lords, Britain’s unelected upper chamber.
Several of these donors from the business world funded Labour before the Corbyn era, and are now doubtless happy to have the party back under their influence after Corbyn’s departure.