Labour frontbencher Richard Burgon has faced a skewering from Emma Barnett after insisting he did not lie when he denied claims he had called Zionism the “enemy of the peace” – despite footage of him saying it.
The shadow justice secretary found himself at the centre of a row last month when footage emerged of him telling a crowd in 2014: “Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people.”
The video resurfaced a year after Burgon insisted that claims he had used the phrase were false, telling the Daily Politics Show in March 2018: “That’s not my view.”
“Why on earth should we believe anything you have to say when you outright lied?” Newsnight’s Barnett asked Burgon in an interview on Thursday.
“I certainly didn’t lie,” the Leeds East MP said. “I was first asked by a newspaper in 2016 whether I had made such a declaration. I couldn’t remember making such a declaration… I asked them when I was meant to have said it and where, they couldn’t tell me.
“Fast forward two years later to 2018 and your colleague, Andrew Neil, asked me if I’d made that comment in a meeting in 2016,” Burgon continued, saying he had told the BBC journalist it was not his view.
“And then a year after that, a video came to light – not of 2016 when I did some speeches after I’d been to Palestine and Israel – but actually from 2014, five years ago before I was even a member of parliament.”
Reading Burgon’s 2014 speech back to him, Barnett said: “I do not have the time to read the entire thing... You tell people to go and look up on the internet to find MPs – Labour MPs – who are Labour Friends of Israel members and you implore them to leave that, you keep going.
“Why did you lie?” she challenged.
The comments from Labour heavyweight Burgon come amid an ongoing row about anti-Semitism in the party, with several Labour MPs – including Luciana Berger – citing the issue as the reason behind their decision to quit the party and form Change UK.
Mike Katz, national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, tweeted: “More than three weeks ago I wrote on behalf of @JewishLabour to Richard Burgon & Lab Chief Whip Nick Brown.
“No reply, let alone an apology and resignation. Guess the Party leadership really wants to rebuild trust with the Jewish community.”