A Jewish group in Leeds postponed a meeting with the Labour deputy leadership hopeful Richard Burgon over concerns the MP could use it for “political gain.”
The East Leeds MP was set to meet officials from the Leeds Jewish Representative Council (LJRC) and Jewish Leadership Council last week.
But the LJRC president Lisa Baker asked for the meeting to be delayed until after the Labour Party’s leadership and deputy leader contest on 4 April in a letter to the MP.
The letter suggested the MP had reportedly cited the upcoming meeting “as evidence you are engaging with the Jewish community on a national scale” while on the campaign trail, including at hustings in Nottingham.
“This is at best a misrepresentation. The Leeds Jewish Representative Council and the local Jewish community will not be used in national political point scoring,” the letter read.
According to Baker’s letter, the president had previously asked to meet all local MPs after taking the helm of the organisation in April 2018.
But despite “prompts and reminders”, Burgon’s staff indicated he “could not find the time” for a meeting, unlike all other MPs contacted, according to the letter.
“The issues of anti-Jewish racism within your party over recent years is well documented and the outcome of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission investigation is awaited,” it stated about the probe into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.
“As a member of the front bench your failure to speak out has been noticed,” it continued, citing the shadow justice secretary’s refusal to endorse the Board of Deputies’ ten pledges to stamp out antisemitism from the party.
The pledges, unveiled by the Board of Deputies last month, were adopted by the majority of candidates, including Rebecca Long-Bailey, Rosena Allin-Khan and Ian Murray.
In his reply to Baker, seen by Jewish News, the MP offered to reschedule the meeting and said he looked forward “to the next one.”
“I have raised some concerns about a small number of the Board of Deputies’ 10 pledges, for example on the outsourcing of a disciplinary process,” he wrote.
He added: “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.”
Burgon is running against Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler, Ian Murray and Angela Rayner to replace Tom Watson, who quit as deputy last year, leaving the post vacant.
The LJRC and Richard Burgon were contacted for comment.