Emily Thornberry: Rebecca Long-Bailey stayed silent on Labour anti-semitism

Posted On: 
12th February 2020

Emily Thornberry has accused Labour leadership rival Rebecca Long-Bailey of staying silent in Shadow Cabinet meetings about the party's anti-semitism problem.

Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry clashed over anti-semitism.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said she "didn't remember" her frontbench colleagues raising the issue, unlike her and fellow leadership candidate Sir Keir Starmer.

However, Mrs Long-Bailey insisted that she had spoken up about the problem, which has dogged Labour throughout Jeremy Corbyn's time as leader.

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The clash came during the first televised hustings of the Labour leadership campaign on BBC2's Newsnight programme.

Ms Thornberry said she and Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir had "regularly" asked for reports on disciplinary cases at meetings of Labour's top team, but that Mrs Long-Bailey had not.

Asked about her response to the party's handling of anti-semitism, Ms Thornberry said: "I think also it has to be said that Keir and I were both in the Shadow Cabinet and would regularly, the two of us, call for a regular report to the Shadow Cabinet."

Pressed on whether that meant Mrs Long-Bailey had not asked for reports, she added: "No I don't think Rebecca did, but Keir and I did regularly."

But in an awkward exchange between the two senior Labour MPs, Mrs Long-Bailey interrupted, saying: "I did, I think you'll find."

Ms Thornberry replied: "Sorry, I don't remember."

The row came as the four remaining leadership candidates urged their colleagues running for the deputy leadership of the party to sign up to the Board of Deputies of British Jews' ten-point plan for restoring trust between Labour and the Jewish community.

So far, neither Richard Burgon or Dawn Butler have signed up to the pledges.

Asked if he would be willing to appoint any shadow minister who had failed to sign up to the plan, Sir Keir said: "If you are anti-semitic you shouldn't be in the Labour Party, and if you aren't prepared to fight anti-semitism then you shouldn't be in the Shadow Cabinet.

"What this requires is real leadership going forward. Many people are saying to stop squabbling about the past and tell us what you are going to do about it in the future."

He added: "I know if you are going to change an organisation you have to lead from the top...I would say I want to see these cases, I want to see what is happening, every week on my desk, if necessary.

"So I would rebuld that relationship with the Jewish community. A test for our party will be if those who left because of anti-semitism feel safe to return."

After the debate, a spokesperson for Mrs Long-Bailey said: "What Emily alleged was untrue, as Rebecca said in response to Emily during the debate, Rebecca did speak out over anti-semitism."