Leeds group cancels meeting with Richard Burgon over fears he would use it 'for political gain'

The Leeds Jewish Representative Council accused the deputy leadership hopeful of 'misrepresenting' his engagement


A Jewish group has postponed a meeting with Labour deputy leadership candidate Richard Burgon citing “concern” that the Leeds East MP was seeking to use it for "political point scoring”.

Lisa Baker, the President of the The Leeds Jewish Representative Council (LJRC) wrote that the LJRC had “been made aware” Mr Burgon had used the future meeting “as evidence that you are engaging with the Jewish community on a national scale,” when he spoke at Labour’s deputy leadership Nottingham hustings on February 8.

“This is at best a misrepresentation,” the letter said. “The Leeds Jewish Representative Council and the local Jewish community will not be used in national political point scoring.”

Writing on February 11, she said that a planned meeting on February 14 should be postponed until after the election.

"We are concerned that you are using our local meeting for national political gain," she wrote.

Mrs Baker also noted Mr Burgon, who is MP for Leeds East, “could not find the time” for a meeting after she was elected LJRC president in April 2018 and that time had been found only after Mr Burgon announced his deputy leadership campaign.

“The issue of anti-Jewish racism within your party in recent years is well documented and the outcome of the EHRC investigation is awaited,” she wrote.

“As a member of the front bench, your failure to speak out has been noticed.

"Your failure to personally adopt the IRHA definition and to back the Board of Deputies’ 10 pledges to end the antisemitism crisis has to call into question your suitability for the role of deputy leader in a post Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party."

Mr Burgon has sat on Labour's frontbench since 2015, and has been shadow justice secretary since 2016.

He was a vocal defender of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership but only just secured enough nominations from MPs to make it onto the members’ ballot, the results of which will be announced on April 4.

In a response, seen by the JC, Mr Burgon’s office wrote: “On the timing of this post-election meeting, we sought to organise it as quickly as possible.”

They added it “wasn’t possible because a colleague you wished to attend couldn’t make it”.

Mr Burgon's office said he had “raised some concerned about a small number of the Board of Deputies’ pledges, for example on the outsourcing of a disciplinary process", adding he was looking “forward to discussing these in more detail”.

The JC approached Richard Burgon's office for comment. A spokesman provided the following statement: "Richard looks forward to meeting with representatives of Leeds' Jewish community. The original meeting was arranged as soon as possible after he received the request on 20 January, when Richard was already a declared candidate for Deputy Leader". 

Mr Burgon is running against Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler, Ian Murray and Angela Rayner in the race to be Labour deputy leader.

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