Jeremy Corbyn is facing further intense pressure to apologise to the Jewish community amid criticism of his handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
After the UK’s Chief Rabbi said he was unfit to be Prime Minister due to his handling of the crisis, the Labour leader repeatedly refused to say sorry when asked during a BBC interview on Tuesday evening.
Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith last night spoke out on the crisis, saying she was “ashamed” the party has been dogged by such accusations.
She said Mr Corbyn had arranged to meet Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and called on the party to apologise.
Speaking as part of a BBC Wales debate, Ms Griffith said: “Jeremy Corbyn has arranged to meet the Chief Rabbi and I would say absolutely that we need to apologise to our colleagues in my own party who have been very upset and to the whole of the Jewish community as a whole, that we have not been as effective as we should have been in dealing with this problem.”
She added: “It is a shame on us, it really is, and it is something that I am very, very ashamed of, and something we must absolutely put right.”
A bruising day on the campaign trail for Mr Corbyn began when the Chief Rabbi launched an unprecedented intervention into politics to warn that victory for Labour at the General Election would put the “very soul of our nation” at stake.
He was later quizzed by journalist Mr Neil on Brexit, his tax plans and borrowing as part of a series of BBC interviews with those vying to become the next PM – but much of the discussion focused on anti-Semitism.
Mr Corbyn was challenged over the Chief Rabbi’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.
He insisted he has “developed a much stronger process” and had sanctioned and removed members who have been anti-Semitic.
Mr Corbyn also denied that the blight increased after he took over the party, saying: “It didn’t rise after I became leader.
“Anti-Semitism is there in society, there are a very, very small number of people in the Labour Party that have been sanctioned as a result about their anti-Semitic behaviour.”
But he repeatedly refused to apologise when asked by Mr Neil.
Instead, Mr Corbyn said he was determined that “society will be safe for people of all faiths”.
“I don’t want anyone to be feeling insecure in our society and our government will protect every community,” he added.
“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 is set to make “a major statement” on the NHS in Westminister on Wednesday morning and later he will address a climate change rally in Falmouth as he attempts to move the debate away from accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party.
Writing in Tuesday’s edition of The Times, Rabbi Mirvis said Labour’s handling of the issue, which has dogged the party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, was “incompatible” with British values.
Earlier in the day, Chancellor Sajid Javid struggled to explain – and refused to criticise – Boris Johnson’s use of words like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” to describe Muslim women wearing veils, which he wrote in a column for The Daily Telegraph last year.
Boris Johnson later dismissed criticism by the Muslim Council of Britain and said: “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.”
Visiting the South West, Mr Johnson will set out plans for a “shared rural network” which would lead to new phone masts being built and existing infrastructure shared between the four mobile phone providers – O2, Three, Vodafone and EE – to strengthen signals in rural areas.
Labour will also today pledge to set up Violence Reduction Units to tackle violent crime by understanding its root causes, while the Tories will outline a scheme to boost the number of children being immunised by reminding parents about forthcoming vaccinations.