Jeremy Corbyn criticised after refusing four times to apologise over Labour anti-Semitism

26 November 2019, 21:17 | Updated: 26 November 2019, 23:12

Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn launches the Labour Party Race and Faith Manifesto in Tottenham
Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn launches the Labour Party Race and Faith Manifesto in Tottenham. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised after he refused four times to apologise to the Jewish community over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

The Labour leader said he does not tolerate anti-Semitism "in any form whatsoever" and called it "vile and wrong.”

But he declined four times to apologise to the Jewish community in an interview with veteran journalist Andrew Neil for the BBC.

Mr Corbyn's comments came after the Chief Rabbi warned his failure to tackle the issue made him unfit to be prime minister.

During the interview on Tuesday evening, Mr Corbyn accused Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of being wrong about part of his criticism of Labour's handling of anti-Semitism.

He said: "I'm looking forward to having a discussion with him because I want to hear why he would say such a thing."

The Labour leader was challenged over Rabbi Mirvis's allegation that Labour's claims it is doing everything to tackle anti-Jewish racism was a "mendacious fiction".

"No, he's not right. Because he would have to produce the evidence to say that's mendacious," Mr Corbyn replied.

But he repeatedly refused to apologise when asked by Mr Neil.

"We will not allow anti-Semitism in any form in our society because it is poisonous and divisive, just as much as Islamophobia or far-right racism is," Mr Corbyn said.

Mr Corbyn insisted he had "strengthened the processes" since a written warning was given to a member who questioned the murder toll of the Holocaust.

It follows a refusal by Chancellor Sajid Javid to criticise the Prime Minister for his use of language to describe Muslim women, after the Muslim Council of Britain accused the Conservatives of "denial, dismissal and deceit" with regards to Islamophobia in the party.

Mr Javid struggled to explain Boris Johnson's use of words such as "letterboxes" and "bank robbers" to describe Muslim women wearing a veil, which he wrote in a column for The Telegraph newspaper last year.

He said Mr Johnson had "explained why he's used that language", adding the article "was to defend the rights of women, whether Muslim women and others, to wear what they like, so he's explained that and I think he's given a perfectly valid explanation".

Mr Javid added: "Whenever this issue has come about (for) the Conservative Party, no-one has ever credibly suggested that it's an issue with the leadership of the party, whether that's the leader of the party of the day or the chancellor or other senior figures, no-one's suggested that."

Later, Mr Johnson dismissed criticism by the Muslim Council of Britain of the Conservative Party's handling of Islamophobia within its ranks.

On a visit to the International Aviation Academy in Norwich on Tuesday, the Prime Minister told reporters that he did not agree with the claim that his party had approached Islamophobia with "denial, dismissal and deceit".

He added: "What we do in the Tory Party is when anybody is guilty of any kind of prejudice or discrimination against another group, then they're out first bounce," he said.

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