Two Jewish organisations are calling for the Conservative Party to launch an investigation after VICE revealed that a bizarre propaganda booklet drawing on Islamophobic and anti-Semitic ideas was available to pick up at a Conservative Party conference fringe meeting. The Conservative Party has condemned the "offensive material" and denied that it was distributed at their conference. One of the book's co-authors told VICE that those claiming the book draws on racist ideas have been "triggered" and are "victims of Moralitis".
The booklet is "Moralitis, A Cultural Virus" by Robert Oulds and Niall McCrae. It was available at a meeting of the Thatcherite, anti-EU think-tank the Bruges Group on Monday. The weird booklet argues that what the authors see as the current moral hegemony is an "epidemic disease" and that "the subversive tenets of cultural Marxism have spread as a pinking of the public discourse". It also draws on the idea of "The Great Replacement" – a far-right conspiracy theory.
A spokesperson from Campaign Against Antisemitism said: "The booklet reportedly being distributed at this fringe event contains terms, such as 'cultural Marxism', which are often used by extreme right-wing groups as code for a Jewish conspiracy to control the world. The booklet also draws on the deeply anti-Muslim and often antisemitic "Great Replacement" theory used by the far-right to incite hatred.
"The Conservative Party must now investigate how this booklet came to be distributed at their conference and take firm action against those responsible," the spokesperson said.
Edie Friedman from the Jewish Council On Racial Equality (JCORE) said: "All allegations of racism should be investigated… We know racism is on the rise throughout Europe. The Jewish community is very concerned that the vote in the European Parliament to censure Viktor Orban's government was not supported by Conservative MEPs."
A Conservative Party spokesperson said, "This literature was not distributed inside the Conservative party conference. The event in question was organised by a group separately from the Conservative Party, and we strongly condemn such offensive material."
The fringe event was listed in the party’s conference guide and was addressed by three Conservative MPs, two of them former cabinet ministers, and attended by a government whip.
Robert Oulds, Director of the Bruges Group and one of the co-authors of the book, strongly denied that the booklet is Islamophobic or anti-Semitic, and rejected the views of the numerous groups that expressed concerns.
He told VICE: "People who say that [the book is offensive] have been triggered because we point out that their delusional beliefs are because of a feeling of succumbing to an authoritarian mindset and think that they can criticise other people, and think that they have a morally superior position. The people who say that are just victims of 'Moralitis'.
"If you have read the booklet you will know what it says and you will know that it is in no way Islamophobic, and to even suggest the issue of anti-Semitism is the most completely bogus thing ever and is absolutely pathetic on your part."
He added: "No one's actually offended by it... it's just playing out, it's acting."
When VICE asked about the Conservative Party's condemnation he expressed disbelief: "Of course they would, yeah, sure, sure. That's a really funny one. Whoever has said that hasn't read it. You must be winding me up."
Edie Friedman from JCORE added, "A great deal of work needs to be done by all the political parties. We have to have clarity and consistency across the political spectrum, because incidents keep being reported and we need to know: What are the procedures each party has put into place for dealing with them? Is there a consistent understanding of anti-black racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism?
"All political parties need to have training in place to recognise what is and is not acceptable. I think we could do a lot more to help people become aware of when they have crossed a line, because there's too much of it happening."
The two organisations' call for action follow concerns raised by Muslim hate monitoring group Tell Mama, the Muslim Council of Britain and anti-racist group Hope Not Hate, which said the party "needs to act fast, and act now, to stop the whiff of extremism infecting the party further".
The "cultural Marxism" referenced numerous times in the booklet is a right-wing conspiracy theory with anti-Semitic origins, which looks at the mostly Jewish thinkers of the Frankfurt School of Philosophy and draws on the racist trope of Jews as a "fifth column", suggesting that they want to undermine traditional Western values. The booklet also drew on the far-right trope "The Great Replacement", a conspiracy theory which suggests that Western culture is being systematically "replaced" by the culture of immigrants from third-world continents.