Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long Bailey came under criticism over her response to an audience member’s “antisemitic” question at a rally in Liverpool.
An activist put a question to the candidate on Monday referencing what he described as the “Israeli lobby” during a Q&A session at the event.
“The people who prevented Jeremy Corbyn from becoming leader most are people like Margaret Hodge, John Mann, Tom Watson, and they are all members of the Israeli lobby,” the activist said in a video published by the website The Red Roar.
In the clip, the man challenged Long Bailey for describing herself as a Zionist, after she used the moniker at a Jewish Labour Movement hustings in London backed by Labour Friends of Israel and Jewish News.
In the clip, Long Bailey can be heard telling the activist: “I believe, like many people in the party do, and it was set out in our manifesto, in a secure viable Israel, against, alongside a viable Palestinian state.
“We’ve been a party that’s recognised a Palestinian state for some time now, and I’m proud of that, and the definition of a Zionist is somebody who believes in the right of Jewish people to self-determine and the existence of a Zionist state.”
“That doesn’t mean, and I know that some members were concerned about that … that as a party I don’t believe we should stand up for the rights of Palestinians. I do,” she said, sparking a round of applause.
When approached for comment, a spokesperson for Long Bailey’s leadership campaign said on Tuesday: “The individual who asked this question was a racist crank.
“Unfortunately that may happen in Q&As following public events, in the same way it very often does on BBC Question Time. Rebecca clearly explained why he was wrong and went on to advocate for a viable and secure state of Israel.”
But Margaret Hodge strongly criticised Long Bailey over her original response. The Jewish MP tweeted on Monday: “To be clear, accusing a Jew who calls out antisemitism of working on behalf of Israel is both conspiratorial & antisemitic.
“And using Zionist as a term of abuse isn’t much better. Why didn’t you challenge this straight away @RLong_Bailey? This is not what leadership looks like.”
Stephane Savary, a national vice chair of the Labour Party affiliate the Jewish Labour Movement, wrote on Twitter that Long Bailey had “totally failed to challenge a disgustingly antisemitic question.”
Long Bailey, who is backed by the shadow chancellor John McDonnell, is vying to replace Corbyn as leader on 4 April. She is standing against the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and the Wigan MP Lisa Nandy.