Jeremy Corbyn admits antisemitism claims were 'neither exaggerated nor overstated'

17 November 2020, 11:19 | Updated: 18 November 2020, 09:37

Jeremy Corbyn has admitted that antisemitism was not an "exaggerated" issue under his leadership
Jeremy Corbyn has admitted that antisemitism was not an "exaggerated" issue under his leadership. Picture: PA Images

Jeremy Corbyn has admitted claims of antisemitism in the Labour Party were "neither exaggerated nor overstated" and that he regrets the impact of the issue on the Jewish community.

The former Labour leader's comments follow his suspension from the party in October after claiming the scandal was "dramatically overstated for political reasons" by his critics.

In a Facebook post, he said he was keen to "clear up any confusion" about his previous statement, by claiming that he never meant to suggest that the problem with antisemitism under his leadership was overstated.

Read more: Labour splits emerge over Jeremy Corbyn suspension after anti-Semitism report

In a letter he sent to party officials following his suspension, published on Tuesday, he wrote: "We must never tolerate antisemitism or belittle concerns about it. And that was not my intention in anything I said this week.

"I regret the pain this issue has caused the Jewish community and would wish to do nothing that would exacerbate or prolong it."

In the letter, he said he fully supports Sir Keir Starmer's decision to accept the outcome of an investigation by the Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) - which found "unlawful acts of discrimination and harassment" perpetrated by Labour members.

“The publication of the EHRC report should have been a moment for the Labour Party to come together in a determination to address the shortcomings of the past and work as one to root out antisemitism in our own ranks and wider society," he added.

As it happened: Jeremy Corbyn suspended from Labour over 'comments he made' on anti-Semitism report

The comments hint at his acknowledgement that not enough was done by the party under his leadership to tackle the issue.

But Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie van der Zyl called on the Labour Party to reject Mr Corbyn's "pathetic non-apology".

She said: "If the party wants to show it is serious about tackling anti-Jewish racism, it will consign this statement, just like the culture which led to the EHRC's damning findings, to the dustbin of history.

"To do otherwise would be a failure of leadership which would risk the party slipping backwards."

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour membership was suspended in October
Jeremy Corbyn's Labour membership was suspended in October. Picture: PA Images

Dismissing Mr Corbyn's statement, Online Editor of Jewish News Jack Mendel tweeted the MP has "chutzpah" to attempt to clarify his position and referred back to his original claim that the issue was exaggerated.

Reports suggest the party's National Executive Committee will meet at 1pm on Tuesday to decide whether or not to allow the former Labour leader back into the party.

It is widely believe Unite the Union boss Len McCluskey and Labour MP Jon Trickett are working to resolve the argument and get Mr Corbyn's membership reinstated.

But columnist and campaigner Owen Jones believes he should be allowed to reenter the party so it can focus on "uniting around implementing the EHRC recommendations, and everyone moving on to address our national calamity".

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn 'trying to making himself a martyr' over anti-Semitism row

Labour peer and former transport secretary Lord Adonis tweeted that it would be a "great mistake" to allow him back into the party, however, "after statements and (lack of) actions" in tackling antisemitism.

Asked by LBC if he had anything to say about Mr Corbyn's statement, Mr McCluskey declined "for now".