Rachel Reeves has said she holds her “hands up” and acknowledges making mistakes in her new book after she faced allegations of plagiarism.
The shadow chancellor admitted on Thursday that some sentences in her book, The Women Who Made Modern Economics, were “not properly referenced in the bibliography”.
The Financial Times had revealed that the book includes material from Wikipedia, The Guardian and remarks made by Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn without attribution.
Really excited about the publication of my new book 'The Women Who Made Modern Economics' on 26 October.
It's my tribute to the women who shaped modern economics and whose work can inspire us to build a better economy.
— Rachel Reeves (@RachelReevesMP) September 28, 2023
Ms Reeves, who could become the UK’s first female chancellor if Labour wins the next election, promised to “put right those mistakes” if the book is reprinted.
Basic Books, the publisher, said some sentences should have been “rewritten and properly referenced” and pledged to review all sources in the book.
The FT reported more than 20 examples had been found using manual checks rather than plagiarism detection software.
Speaking to BBC Broadcasting House, Ms Reeves said: “It is true that there were some sentences in the book that were not properly referenced in the bibliography.
“I’m the author of that book, I hold my hands up and say I should’ve done better.”
Asked if the errors were a result of her being too busy, she said: “Obviously I had research assistants on the book, but I take responsibility for everything that is in that book.
“What I wanted to do was to bring together the stories of these women, and if I’m guilty of copying and pasting some facts about some amazing women and turning it into a book that gets read then I’m really proud of that.
“I will put this right because in any future reprints I will make sure that everything is properly referenced in the bibliography, that is important to me and I will put right those mistakes.”
The book gives biographical accounts of some of the women whose ideas have shaped modern economics.
A sentence on the relationship between author HG Wells and economist Beatrice Webb is the same as one 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.”
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 wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “As always Sir Keir and his Copy and Paste Shadow Chancellor will take the easy way out every time.”
Basic Books said it will “review all sources and ensure any omissions are rectified in future reprints”.
“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,” the publisher said.
“Where facts are taken from multiple sources, no author would be expected to reference each and every one.
“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.”