Jeremy Corbyn denies making Labour a 'refuge' for anti-Semites

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Romilly Weeks

Jeremy Corbyn has rejected claims he made the Labour party a "welcoming refuge" for anti-Semites, amid renewed accusations the party has failed to deal with the issue.

Lawyers for the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) said 70 Labour staffers past and present have given sworn testimony into an official inquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into anti-Semitism in the party.

According to a leaked copy of its submission to the inquiry, the JLM said Labour was “no longer a safe space” for Jewish people or those who stood up against anti-Semitism.

“Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, he has made the party a welcoming refuge for anti-Semites,” it said.

“He has done that in a number of ways, including by publicly supporting anti-Semites and anti-Semitic tropes. The Labour Party is cast in his image.”

A whistleblower and ex-Labour staffer, Sam Matthews, spoke at a press conference today alongside members of JLM.

He says "widespread racism" in the party affected his mental health to the point where he considered taking his own life.

"(We didn't have) the support from those above us to tackle the problem effectively," he said.

"Anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and bullying, bullying those who fight anti-Semitism, are now commonplace."

Corbyn was asked about the claims during election campaigning today. He said: "I completely reject that."

"When I became leader of the party there were no processes in place to deal with anti-Semitism.

"We introduced an education process, so that party members understood the hurt that can be caused by (it)... I think we've got processes in place that have improved it a great deal."

James Libson, a lawyer representing JLM, said their submission included evidence there were inappropriate links between Corbyn's office and the parties investigating the anti-Semitism.

"There has been interference and that interference has unfortunately become institutional," he said.

“Institutional in the sense that people affiliated with the leader’s office – and now in the actual unit that are investigating – and that at a more basic level, information is passing between the leader’s office and investigating unit.”

Jeremy Corbyn on an election campaign visit to Fulbridge Academy, Peterborough Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

The EHRC announced in May that it was launching a formal investigation into the party after receiving a number of complaints relating to allegations of anti-Semitism since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.

Its remit is to determine whether unlawful acts have been committed by the party or its employees, and whether Labour responded to complaints in a “lawful, efficient and effective manner”.

The leadership subsequently acknowledged that it was too slow to respond to the concerns, but insisted that new measures have been put in place to deal with complaints more effectively.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said an anti-Semitic ‘poison’ has taken root in Labour Party. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

The issue erupted into the General Election campaign last week, when the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis warned that “a new poison sanctioned from the top” had taken root in the party, and questioned Mr Corbyn’s fitness for office.

The Labour leader faced further criticism after he repeatedly refused to apologise during an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil – although he later did so during an appearance this week on ITV.