It has emerged that the Labour frontbencher and leadership hopeful Rebecca Long Bailey addressed an event in Manchester just months after her election as an MP in 2015 in which she showed “very little awareness” of issues important to the Jewish community, dismissed claims that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite and promised to join Labour Friends of Israel but never made good on that pledge.
The JC has reported that Ms Long Bailey made the remarks and pledge at a meeting co-hosted by Manchester’s Zionist Central Council and the Jewish Representative Council in a bid to calm fears among the local community about Mr Corbyn.
Ms Long Bailey was asked for her opinion on the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which engages in tactics which an overwhelming majority of British Jews consider to be intimidatory according to Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antsemitism Barometer 2019. It is understood that the audience was disappointed that Ms Long Bailey appeared to be entirely unfamiliar with the boycott campaign, but was reassured by her comments that she “was opposed to such boycotts.”
She was also asked why she had joined Labour Friends of Palestine but not also Labour Friends of Israel. She replied that her first days at Parliament were rather like “freshers’ week” and it seemed like a popular organisation to join, but she accepted that there were two sides to that conflict a gave a “firm promise” to join Labour Friends of Israel. However, it is understood that Ms Long Bailey has not joined the organisation nor did she make any move to do so in the months following the event.
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.