Lisa Nandy blasts 'collective failure of Labour leadership' in response to anti-Semitism during heated debate

Bonnie Christian
Sky News

The Labour leadership candidates have clashed over the party's response to its anti-Semitism crisis.

During Thursday's Sky News debate in Dewsbury, one of the seats Labour lost in the general election, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said there had been a “collective failure of leadership at the top of the party for years” where high-profile cases had not been dealt with.

She added that, as someone who is half-Indian, “I know what racism feels like”.

Taking on Sir Keir Starmer, who said that he would "personally take responsibility for building our trust with our Jewish community" if he was to become leader, she said: “I believe that you are sincere about this, but if we do not acknowledge how badly the shadow cabinet as a whole got this wrong we will not earn the trust of the Jewish community.”

Sir Keir Starmer and Lis Nandy clashed over responses to anti-Semitism (Sky News)

Campaign frontrunner Sir Keir told her: “You were in the shadow cabinet when this issue came up as well.”

Ms Nandy, who quit Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet in 2016, shot back: “I spoke out publicly and then I left and I didn’t return.”

She added: “The shadow cabinet was offered sight of the submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission which was investigating Labour for institutional racism.

“And apparently not a single person took up the offer of seeing the party’s position.”

Sir Keir told her that was “absolute nonsense”, adding that he and deputy leader Tom Watson had asked for that submission.

He said he had argued in favour of Labour adopting the international definition of anti-Semitism and having automatic expulsion of “clear cases”.

Asked if Ms Long-Bailey had spoken out, Sir Keir paused before saying: “I think, given where we have got to, I think the last thing our members, our movement and our country wants is us three trying to take lumps out of each other about who did what.

“The test for us is how would we deal with this as leader of the Labour Party, and I would take a leadership role on this.”

Sir Keir added: “Rebecca didn’t speak out in the same way that I did, in my view, but I don’t think it’s fair and it’s right for us to try to score points now off each other in relation to this.”

Ms Long-Bailey told the debate: “I’m not pointing fingers or making a note of the exact dates and times that particular individuals spoke at shadow cabinet.

“Keir knows that I spoke at shadow cabinet a number of times about this. I was often the shadow cabinet member that did the media to try and explain what was happening, and expressed my concern many, many times about how we weren’t tackling this in the way that I thought we should.”

She added: “We are in a crisis and I know that it’s been soul-destroying for many of our members, because we are not an anti-Semitic or racist party.

“But many of our members went out in that general election and they knocked on the doors of Jewish voters who didn’t trust us and they were frightened of the Labour Party and we have to accept that that has happened and we have got to rebuild that trust.”

At the start of the debate, Ms Nandy warned that unless Labour changes direction "there will be no party to vote for in ten years time" and "this may be our last chance" to save it.

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