Corbyn under fire as Chief Rabbi warns of ‘poison’ of Labour anti-Semitism
Senior Labour figures have insisted the party is committed to driving out anti-Semitism after Britain’s Chief Rabbi suggested Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle the issue made him unfit for high office.
In an incendiary intervention, Ephraim Mirvis said Labour’s handling of the issue, which has dogged the party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, was “incompatible” with British values.
He said the overwhelming majority of Britain’s Jews were “gripped with anxiety” ahead of the General Election on December 12, warning “the very soul of our nation is at stake”.
Allies of Mr Corbyn acknowledged that Mr Mirvis had raised a serious issue, but insisted the numbers of those involved represented a “tiny fraction” of the party’s membership.
However Mr Mirvis received high-profile backing from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who said his intervention reflected the alarm felt by many in the Jewish community.
“That the Chief Rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews,” he said.
Writing in The Times, Mr Mirvis said “a new poison – sanctioned from the top” had taken root in the Labour Party.
He added: “How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office?”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald accepted there were issues that had to be dealt with within the party but he strongly rejected the Chief Rabbi’s characterisation of Mr Corbyn.
“It is a serious intervention. It is a reminder of the hurt that has been caused to the Jewish community by the instances of anti-Semitism within the party and broader than that,” he told Sky News.
“I really do take issue with the conclusions the Chief Rabbi has raised about the character and nature of the party and indeed Jeremy Corbyn who has devoted his life to fight racism of all kinds.
“People come into the Labour Party to fight racism in all its manifestations and it is upsetting, to say the least, to find ourselves trying to deal with these small number of incidents.
“We are a huge movement and this represents a tiny fraction of our membership.
“Nevertheless it is serious and it has to be dealt with head on.”