Gone for a Burgon

JEWISH leaders have refused to meet a contender to be Labour’s No 2 who once said that Zionists were the enemies of peace.

Richard Burgon, who wants to be deputy leader, hoped to meet the Jewish community to forge closer links.

But Leeds Jewish Representative Council have postponed the proposed meeting, citing their concern that he was using it “for national political gain in your bid to become deputy leader of the Labour Party”.

He had previously been accused of making antisemitic statements for which he has apologised — but now aimed to show that he was “engaging with the Jewish community on a national scale”.

However, Leeds Rep Council president Lisa Baker has demanded that the meeting — which was to be alongside the Jewish Leadership Council — be delayed until after the leadership contest is completed on April 4.

Mancunian Miss Baker told Corbynite Mr Burgon, MP for Leeds East, in her letter: “When I became president of LJRC in April, 2018, all Leeds MPs were written to and invited to meet, supported by Michaela Vyse — the JLC external affairs manager for Yorkshire and Humber.

“As Jewish people live in all constituencies in Leeds, it is important that all local MPs are aware of the issues faced by them in living an active Jewish life.

“Over the subsequent months, she met all the other MPs in the region, except for yourself. Prompts and reminders were sent but your staff indicated you could not find the time.”

Mr Burgon further ignored offers of meetings after last year’s election, and once again when he announced his candidacy for deputy Labour leader.

Citing the party’s issues with antisemitism and Mr Burgon’s “failure to speak out”, Miss Baker continued: “Your failure to meet with Jewish national representative bodies could be considered as saying they are irrelevant.

“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.

“The LJRC and the local Jewish community will not be used in national political point scoring.

“Antisemitism in the Labour Party has escalated . . . and you personally in that period have had questions asked about your conduct.

“For those reasons, we have made the decision that it would be inappropriate for us to meet.”

She went on: “We propose to rearrange this at a time when the outcome of the Labour Party leadership contest is resolved and you are able to concentrate on the issues facing your local Jewish constituents.”

In his response, Mr Burgon did acknowledge the difficulties in arranging a meeting, but clarified why he has yet to accept the BoD’s 10 pledges.

He said: “I have raised some concerns about a small number of the Board of Deputy’s pledges, for example on the outsourcing of a disciplinary process.

“I look forward to discussing these in more detail at the meeting, but please be assured that I am committed to working with the Board of Deputies and the whole Jewish community to fight antisemitism and discrimination and for an inclusive society.”

During a hustings event in Manchester last week, Mr Burgon finally apologised for being caught on camera in 2014 saying that Zionism and Zionists were the “enemy of peace”.

He explained at the meeting: “I understand that the phrase Zionist doesn’t just mean (Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and the people who particularly support him — it means anybody who believes in a State of Israel.

“When I went there, I met Israeli citizens campaigning (for peace).

“I now understand that it is anybody who believes Israel should exist.”

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