Rachel Reeves denies 'lifting' Wikipedia paragraphs for her new book in plagiarism row

26 October 2023, 13:54

Rachel Reeves said there were "inadvertent mistakes" in the book
Rachel Reeves said there were "inadvertent mistakes" in the book. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has denied that multiple passages in her new book about the women who shaped economics were plagiarised.

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She said there were "inadvertent mistakes" in the book and that errors will be "rectified" in future reprints.

The Financial Times reported its journalists had identified entire paragraphs lifted from other sources without acknowledgement.

The book, The Women Who Made Modern Economics, includes material from Wikipedia, The Guardian and remarks made by Labour MP Hilary Benn without attribution, the paper reported.

A spokesperson for Ms Reeves said: "These were inadvertent mistakes and will be rectified in future reprints."

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Basic Books, the publisher, defended the Labour frontbencher, saying she had not sought to present the material as original research but acknowledged that "factual sentences" were not properly referenced in every instance.

The FT reported more than 20 examples had been found using manual checks rather than plagiarism detection software.

The book by Ms Reeves, who hopes to become the first woman to serve as UK chancellor after a general election expected next year, gives biographical accounts of some of the women whose ideas have shaped modern economics.

A sentence on the relationship between HG Wells and economist Beatrice Webb is exactly the same as one found on Wikipedia: "He responded by lampooning the couple in his 1911 novel The New Machiavelli as Altiora and Oscar Bailey, a pair of short-sighted, bourgeois manipulators."

Similarly, a foreword to a report on international development by Mr Benn, published on the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change website, appears to have been lifted almost word for word.

Mr Benn wrote: "When we were elected in 1997, the amount of aid we gave as a proportion of our national income had halved over the preceding 18 years and was just 0.26%.

"By the time we left office, we were on our way to achieving the 0.7% target.

"This was down to the political leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who brought the lives of the world's poorest people into the heart of Whitehall."

Ms Reeves wrote: "When Labour was elected in 1997, the amount of aid the UK gave as a proportion of our national income had halved over the preceding 18 years and stood at just 0.26%.

"By the end of Labour's time in office, in 2010, we were on our way to achieving the 0.7% cent target.

"This was down to the political leadership of Blair and Gordon Brown - and their first Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to 2002, Clare Short, who brought the lives of the world's poorest people into the heart of government."

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands accused Ms Reeves of being a "copy and paste shadow chancellor" following the report.

"Rachel Reeves needs to explain herself urgently," he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, adding in a second past: "As always Sir Keir and his Copy and Paste Shadow Chancellor will take the easy way out every time."

Basic Books said in a statement: "At no point did Rachel seek to present these facts as original research. There is an extensive and selective bibliography of over 200 books, articles and interviews.

"Where facts are taken from multiple sources, no author would be expected to reference each and every one," the publisher said in a statement.

"When factual sentences were taken from primary sources, they should have been rewritten and properly referenced.

"We acknowledge this did not happen in every case.

"As always in instances such as these, we will review all sources and ensure any omissions are rectified in future reprints."

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