In powerful responses (published below) to the Board of Deputies, both the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government and the Leader of the Labour Party have spoken out against Roger Waters concerts currently taking place in the UK.
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has written to the Board of Deputies saying that: “The Government is clear that everyone has a clear and fundamental right to freedom of speech and artistic expression, so long as they remain within the boundaries set by law. There is also a societal expectation placed on people with a significant public profile to behave responsibly and not abuse their platform. This is an expectation of which Roger Waters is reportedly falling short.”
A response to the Board of Deputies from Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, describes how Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, has “clearly espoused antisemitic views”, which he calls “highly disturbing”.
“The Labour Party stands with the Jewish community and fully condemns Roger Waters”, Keir Starmer has written.
“Many people will think of Roger Waters as famous for being a member of one of the most important bands in history, but he is now more synonymous with spreading deeply troubling antisemitism and that is why I believe this show should not be allowed to go ahead. Views like this should not be given a platform.”
In recent weeks, the Board of Deputies has written to senior politicians, local politicians in the cities in which Roger Waters concerts were due to take place, and the venues themselves, identifying statements which Roger Waters has made in the past, and noting local Jewish community concerns at the performer’s plans to hold concerts there. Comments made by Waters include his 2013 statement in an interview that in America “The Jewish lobby is extraordinary powerful here and particularly in the industry that I work in, the music industry and in rock’n roll as they say”. In a 2021 interview, he was reported to have said that some Jewish people in the US and UK bear responsibility for the actions of the State of Israel, “particularly because they pay for everything.”
In a statement released several weeks ago, the Board of Deputies made it clear that Waters’ performances are “not just concerts, but political rallies in which he gives his worldview”, noting that his latest tour begins with announcements that “If you don’t agree with Roger’s politics, you might do well to f*** off to the bar right now.”
During his performances here, Roger Waters has also attacked Christian Wakeford, Labour MP for Bury South, who has publicly called for his concerts to be cancelled. In video footage reportedly taken last night during his concert, to applause from the audience, Waters claimed that Wakeford was “making s**t up because you’ve been told to by your masters in the Foreign Office in Tel Aviv. Because this hate is being organised from Israel.”
Waters’ use of a Nazi-like uniform during his performances has been questioned, although this has been defended as being part of an anti-fascist rock opera sequence in which his character imagines himself to be a totalitarian dictator. Previous concert tours by Waters also featured a giant inflatable pig – a staple of Pink Floyd concerts – with graffiti which included a Star of David.
In February of this year, Polly Sampson, the Pink Floyd lyricist and wife of the band’s guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour,, accused Waters on Twitter of being “antisemitic to your rotten core”. Gilmour then shared the tweet, saying that “every word is demonstrably true.”
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies, thanked Keir Starmer and Michael Gove for their responses on this issue, saying:
“We are extremely grateful that both Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government and Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Labour Party, have expressed their concern to us directly regarding Roger Waters and his performances. I would also like to thank all regional and local politicians who have spoken out against this tour and stood with the wider Jewish community.”
Letter from Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government, Michael Gove MP
Image credit: Mountain Brothers/Shutterstock.com
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