Anti-Semitism raised at Labour leadership hustings

Labour leadership contenders have sparred over dealing with anti-Semitism in the first hustings in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

Backbencher Jess Phillips took a swipe at some of her fellow contenders for keeping quiet over anti-Semitism in the party.

She said: “The Labour Party needs a leader who has spoken out against anti-Semitism, and other forms of harassment in fact.

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“When others were keeping quiet and (as) somebody who was in the room, struggling for an independent system – lots and lots of meetings – I have to say I don’t remember some of the people here being in that particular room or being in those particular fights.”

Ms Phillips said that the Labour Party’s handling of anti-Semitism had meant it had lost the “moral high ground” to fight racism.

She added: “Jewish people were scared of Labour winning the election.

“We have lost the moral high ground to fight racism in this country because of the way we have handled anti-Semitism.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said she had battled racism.

Ms Thornberry told the Liverpool event: “I tell you what Jess (Phillips), I have always been clear about it and I always will because it’s unacceptable, it undermines us as a party and undermines our soul.

“What we should be doing is kicking out these anti-Semites in the same way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool in 1937.”

Ms Thornberry also insisted the next leader of the Labour Party would have the worst job in the world.

She said: “Being leader of the Labour Party in opposition is, quite frankly, the worst job in the world.

“That’s what we are applying for.

“In the end we have to wade through an awful lot of shit.”

I learnt my politics sat on my stairs listening to my parents talking about redundancies in our community, I never saw myself as one day standing to be leader of the Labour Party. But I know that our path to power is in uniting all of our heartlands and I’ve got a plan to do that

— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) January 18, 2020

Some 500 Labour members were at the event, and most of those approached by PA Media said there was no “knock-out” blow by any of the candidates.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told the audience that divided parties do not win elections.

Shadow Brexit secretary and early front-runner in the campaign, Sir Keir Starmer, said there had been “too much division” in the party, adding: “We are unstoppable when we are united.”

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