Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis brands Jeremy Corbyn 'unfit for high office'

25 November 2019, 22:19 | Updated: 26 November 2019, 00:12

Jeremy Corbyn and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Jeremy Corbyn and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The Chief Rabbi has branded Jeremy Corbyn “unfit for high office” and says that the Labour leader’s claim to have dealt with all allegations of antisemitism is “a mendacious fiction”.

Ephraim Mirvis has warned that the “very soul of our nation is at stake” in next month’s general election if Labour get into power.

Writing in The Times in a rare intervention into politics, Mr Mirvis said that “a new poison” has taken hold in Labour “sanctioned from the very top”.

He said that Mr Corbyn's dealing of the party's perceived antisemitism problem made him "unfit for office."

The religious leader wrote that British Jews are gripped by an understandable and justified anxiety.

Mr Mirvis said: “How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough?

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis with Charles, Prince of Wales
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis with Charles, Prince of Wales. Picture: PA

“Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.

“It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote. I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country?

“When December 12 arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.”

Allegations of antisemitism have plagued Labour and Mr Corbyn since he was elected to the leadership in September 2015.

Thirteen Labour MPs have quit the party since 2017 at least partly in protest at its handling of antisemitism.

Mr Corbyn has insisted repeatedly that he is not antisemitic and the party has defended its processes for dealing with complaints.

The chief rabbi said he expected that he would now be “demonised by faceless social media trolls and accused of being partisan or acting in bad faith by those who still think of this as an orchestrated political smear”.

But he said that he asked himself: “Should the victims of racism be silenced by the fear of yet further vilification?”

He wrote: “We sit powerless, watching with incredulity as supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, party members and even staff out of the party for facing down anti-Jewish racism. Even as they received unspeakable threats against themselves and their families, the response of the Labour leadership was utterly inadequate.

“We have endured quibbling and prevarication over whether the party should adopt the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism in the world.

"Now, astonishingly we await the outcome of a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into whether discrimination by the party against Jews has become an institutional problem.

"And all of this whilst in opposition. What should we expect of them in government?”

In response to the Chief Rabbi's comments, a Labour spokesman said: "Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong campaigner against anti-Semitism and has made absolutely clear it has no place in our party and society and that no-one who engages in it does so in his name.

"A Labour government will guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend and support the Jewish way of life, and combat rising anti-Semitism in our country and across Europe. Our race and faith manifesto sets out our policies to achieve this."

Mr Mirvis claimed that there are at least 130 outstanding cases on anti-Semitism being looked at by Labour and that thousands more have been reported but remain unresolved.

But the Labour spokesman added: "The 130 figure is inaccurate and it is categorically untrue to suggest there are thousands of outstanding cases. We are taking robust action to root out anti-Semitism in the party, with swift suspensions, processes for rapid expulsions and an education programme for members.

"Anti-Semitism complaints account for about 0.1 per cent of the Labour Party membership, while polls show anti-Semitism is more prevalent among Conservative than Labour supporters.

"In the past week it's been revealed Conservative candidates said events in the Holocaust were 'fabricated' and called British Jews 'extremists'."

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