Don't call us a cult!' Corbynista Rebecca Long-Bailey calls for unity

‘Don’t call us a cult!’ Hardcore Corbynista Rebecca Long-Bailey makes bid for Labour leadership as Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry clash angrily over anti-Semitism at hustings

  • Ms Long-Bailey laid out her pitch for ‘aspirational socialism’ at first hustings
  • The left-winger scolded Labour party members who brand Corbynism a ‘cult’
  • Emily Thornberry launched a stinging attack on ‘liar’ Boris Johnson today

Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has scolded members who brand Corbynism a ‘cult’ during the party’s first hustings today.

The left-winger, who was a chief lieutenant of Jeremy Corbyn and has won the backing of the hardline Momentum insurgents, laid out her pitch for ‘aspirational socialism’ at a US-primaries style debate in Liverpool.

Appealing for an end to bitter infighting, the shadow business secretary said: ‘It’s not acceptable for any of our members to call other members a cult, and it’s not acceptable for any members to tell people to F off and go and join the Tories.’

This call for a ceasefire between the warring moderate and Corbynite factions of the party was echoed by all of the other candidates – Sir Keir Starmer, Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry.

Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey (far left) has scolded members who brand Corbynism a ‘cult’ during the party’s first hustings today


Frontrunners Sir Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey speak at the first Labour leadership hustings in Liverpool toda

The debate appeared to be styled on a United States primary hustings, with all five candidates lined up on stage and put questions by a chair.

But unlike presidential hustings, where the frontrunner is given the plum spot in the middle, Sir Keir and Ms Long-Bailey were cast off at both ends. 

The hustings began with all leadership hopefuls in agreement, establishing consensus that factionalism needs to end and that Brexit is all but certain.

Yet Ms Phillips locked horns with Ms Thornberry after launching a thinly-veiled swipe at her fellow candidates who she claimed kept quiet on anti-Semitism, which dogged the party at the last election.

The Birmingham Yardley MP, who was not a member of Mr Corbyn’s top team, said: ‘The Labour Party needs a leader who has spoken out about anti-Semitism and other forms of harassment when others were keeping quiet, and someone who was in the room struggling for an independent system, lots and lots of meetings. 


Ms Phillips (left) locked horns with Ms Thornberry (right) after launching a thinly-veiled swipe at her fellow candidates on the topic of anti-Semitism, which dogged the party at the last election

‘I have to say I don’t remember some of the people in this room being in those particular rooms or being in those particular fights when we were really pushing for this to change.

‘Jewish people were scared of the Labour Party at the election. This is deeply serious.’

Ms Long-Bailey, Ms Thornberry and Sir Keir were all in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.   

Ms Thornberry said that her attacks on the Israeli government should not be conflated with attacks on the Jewish people and furiously hit back.

Raising her voice, she cried: ‘I’ll tell you what Jess, I have always been clear about it and I always will.

‘It is absolutely unacceptable, it undermines our credibility and it undermines our soul and we should be kicking out these anti-Semites in the same way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool in 1937.’

This call for a ceasefire between the warring moderate and Corbynite factions of the party was echoed by all of the other candidates – Sir Keir Starmer (far right) Jess Phillips (second left), Lisa Nandy (second right) and Emily Thornberry (centre)

Ms Thornberry received the first big cheer from the live audience by launching a stinging attack on Boris Johnson, who she said has a ‘woman problem’.

Responding to a question asking the candidates why they are the best-equipped to confront the Prime Minister, the shadow foreign secretary said: ‘He is in the end a liar, he is callous, he doesn’t care, he plays at politics, he plays with people’s lives.

‘He needs to be held to account. And frankly I think he has a woman problem. He certainly has a problem with me and during the two years I was shadowing him eventually the papers came out and supported me, that he is the worst foreign secretary this country has ever seen and I was part of exposing that.’    

Sir Keir, who is seen as a moderate within the Labour ranks, extended an olive branch to the party’s hard-left wing by urging members not to ‘trash the last four years’, during which time Mr Corbyn ‘made us an anti-austerity party, there’s no going back on that’. 

But Ms Long-Bailey also moved to shore up her leftist support base via a rallying cry inspired by her own personal history growing up in Manchester.

She said: ‘That child from Old Trafford, who watched her family struggle is angry. Her life was nearly shattered and she is now here to shatter the Tory majority.’     

Other hustings are planned in cities including Durham, Bristol, Cardiff, Nottingham, Glasgow and London, as well as in the West Midlands and Bedford.

The result of the contest will be announced on April 4. 

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