Labour's Rebecca Long Bailey accused of 'staggering hypocrisy' in antisemitism row

Leadership hustings turned into bitter argument over party's failure to deal with anti-Jewish racism


Labour MPs have accused leadership hopeful Rebecca Long Bailey of "staggering hypocrisy" after a Westminster hustings to decide Jeremy Corbyn's successor turned into a bitter row about antisemitism.

Tuesday's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party had seen Ms Long Bailey - who has been accused of being the "continuity Corbyn" candidate - and  fellow contenders Sir Keir Starmer, Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy, Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis set out their manifestos.

But it was not until Halifax MP Holly Lynch asked a direct question about the party's failure to tackle anti-Jewish racism that tensions among those in the packed Commons Committee room spilled over.

Addressing the candidates hoping to be elected the new Labour leader on April 4, Ms Lynch asked: ‘Why do you think we have a problem with antisemitic hate in our party?

"What have you done until now to tackle it? What will you do as Leader?"

Ms Long Bailey repeated her suggestion that Labour "owed Jewish people an apology" over its failure to tackle antisemitism.

But two furious Labour MPs later contacted the JC, angry about the shadow business secretary's "staggering hypocrisy" on the issue, given she gave an interview with ITV News earlier on Tuesday in which she scored Mr Corbyn's leadership "10 out of 10".

Ms Long Bailey insisted she was "not anybody’s ‘continuity candidate’” but said of Mr Corbyn: "I’d give him 10 out of 10, because I respect him and I supported him all the way through”.

One MP later told the JC: "Either Rebecca is completely deluded - or just plain silly. She was nothing but an outright Corbyn loyalist for the best part of four years.

"She is partly responsible for the failure of Labour to stem the tide of antisemitism within its ranks. How she can now claim to be concerned about an issue that cost us the election - it's staggering hypocrisy."

During the hustings, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry remarked that, in shadow cabinet meetings, only she and Keir Starmer had raised the issue of antisemitism under Mr Corbyn.

Wigan MP Ms Nandy highlighted reports at the weekend that suggested Ms Long-Bailey had failed to vote in support of the IHRA antisemitism definition at meetings of the party's ruling NEC.

Ms Nandy said there had been a "collective leadership failure to acknowledge the antisemitism crisis".

She added there were "people on this stage" who had failed to back the IHRA definition.

In an angry rebuke of Mr Corbyn and the party's leadership, Birmingham Yardley MP Ms Phillips told the room that "Jewish people were afraid of us governing", saying she had raised the issue "again and again" from the backbenches.

Ms Phillips added she "wanted to be Prime Minister to change people's lives".

Sir Keir took an aggressive stance over antisemitism in Tuesday evening's near two-hour debate, despite launching his campaign to become leader with a video that stressed his left-wing credentials in a bid to win over Mr Corbyn's supporters.

He told the audience he "did not want a single voter to raise Labour's failure on antisemitism on the doorstep" at the next election.

Both Sir Keir and Ms Thornberry said the those guilty of anti-Jewish racism should be "kicked out" without any "second chances."

Clive Lewis said "tough audience, tough gig" as he left the event.

With MP nominations due in next Monday, Sir Keir Starmer and Ms Phillips currently lead in support from colleagues in parliament, followed by Ms Long Bailey, Ms Nandy, Mr Lewis and Ms Thornberry.

Despite her rough ride at the PLP meeting, Ms Long Bailey is still hoping to triumph as a result of her support among members and the Unite trade union.

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