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Government ‘Independent Adviser’ Who ‘Backs Ban’ on Climate and Palestine Groups has Paid Roles with Defence and Business Lobbyists

The Conservatives’ domestic extremism adviser Lord John Walney is accused of conflicts of interest over a proposed ban of groups such as Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil

Photo: Purpose Defence Coalition (Screengrab)

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The Government’s ‘independent adviser’ on domestic extremism – who has reportedly backed banning certain pro-Palestine groups – is the chair and paid adviser for a defence sector lobbying organisation, it has emerged.  

Earlier this week, extracts were leaked to the media from a forthcoming report of the Government’s so-called ‘Independent Adviser on Domestic Violence and Disruption’, Lord Walney – a former Labour MP who has since worked closely with the Conservatives. 

It will reportedly call for supposedly ‘extreme’ campaign groups such as Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil to be banned, despite the groups themselves being denied access to the report.

Now campaign group Plan B has alleged that “far from being ‘independent, Lord Walney serves vested corporate interests in the arms and fossil fuel industries, whose profits are being threatened by precisely the groups he’s proposing to ban”, after analysing his financial interests registered with the House of Lords authorities. 

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The declarations reveal that, among other roles, Lord Walney is:

Lord Walney, whose name is John Woodcock, also visited Israel in January this year, funded by Elnet, an NGO promoting cooperation between Europe and Israel. It was founded in 2007 as a European pro-Israel advocacy group, to counter “widespread criticism of Israel in Europe”.

According to NGO Action on Armed Violence, Purpose Defence Coalition member Leonardo “equips Israel with Aermacchi M-346 aircraft and parts for Apache attack helicopters” while the “company’s site in Edinburgh is responsible for producing the laser targeting system used in F-35 fighter jets”.

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Plan B argues that the revelations about Lord Walney echo a previous attempt by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange to brand climate activists ‘extremists’ in 2019. Vice later reported that Policy Exchange had been funded by fuel firm Drax and industry lobbyists Energy UK. 

Tim Crosland, director of the climate justice charity Plan B, said: “Lord Walney’s report is being presented as ‘independent’. But that’s not true. That’s dishonest.”

He pointed to Lord Walney’s position as chair of the Defence Purpose Coalition, “a group which represents the interests of arms companies, such as Leonardo” – which Palestine Action has attempted to “expose” over providing Israel with military equipment amid the Gaza conflict.

Crosland added that Lord Walney’s role as a paid adviser to the linked Purpose Business Coalition will be partly funded by BP, “whose vast profits are threatened by Just Stop Oil”.

“His recommendations are not surprising… [but] it would be a shocking deception on the public for anyone to present those recommendations as ‘independent’,” he added.

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Huda Ammori, co-founder of Palestine Action, said: “Whilst our Government remains complicit in the ongoing Gaza genocide, it is our duty to take direct action to halt the production of weapons in Britain which is being used against the Palestinian people. 

“It is a sham for the Government to try and claim Lord Walney is an ‘independent’ adviser, who only a few months ago travelled to Israel, whilst families were being massacred a couple of hours away.” 

Ammon added that “unelected politicians with vested interests in arms companies” should “not be given airtime to dictate British policy”.

It was originally expected that the full report would be released on Wednesday morning. It is understood that legal issues may have caused a short delay to publication, related to groups being named in the report not having seen it before it was released to the press.

Lord Walney resigned from the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn in 2018, amid an investigation into his conduct over alleged inappropriate text messages. He denied wrongdoing. 

The crossbench peer and the Home Office were contacted for comment.

It comes as a YouGov poll commissioned by Medical Aid for Palestinians and Council for Arab-British Understanding suggested that a majority of British people think there should be an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and would support the UK ending its arms sales to Israel for the duration of the conflict in Gaza.

This latest poll found that 55% of Brits surveyed supported the UK ending the sale of arms to Israel for the duration of the conflict in Gaza. Only 13% wanted to see the continuation of arms sales. Of those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2019, the poll found that 40% are in favour of the UK suspending arms sales to Israel, while just 24% opposed.

This article was amended on 18th May to remove a paragraph included before its intended publication date.

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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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