'Jeremy Corbyn has insisted antisemitism in Labour has not risen under his leadership and resisted calls to apologise to Britain’s Jews, after the country’s chief rabbi claimed he had let poison take root in the party.
In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, the Labour leader declined four opportunities to apologise for the party’s approach to dealing with antisemitism, which has led a string of Labour MPs to resign and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to launch an investigation.
Corbyn, asked whether he would say sorry to Jews on behalf of his party, said: “What I’ll say is this. I am determined that our 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.”
At the end of a bruising day, Corbyn also struggled with questions over how he would fund the party’s £58bn pledge to compensate 1950s-born women hit by a rise in the pensions age – Waspi women – and whether some of his tax rises would hit people on lower incomes.
But he was predominantly pressed on antisemitism, the day after Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi who represents 62 orthodox synagogues, said Jews were justifiably anxious about the prospect of Labour forming the next government.
Corbyn challenged the rabbi’s claims and said he was “looking forward to having a discussion” with him about the accusations.
“It didn’t rise after I became leader,” he said. “Antisemitism 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 antisemitic behaviour.”
In particular, he disputed the rabbi’s statement that Labour was peddling a “mendacious fiction” by claiming it was doing everything possible to tackle anti-Jewish hatred.
The Labour leader told Neil: “He’s not right. Because he would have to produce the evidence to say that’s mendacious.”
Read more: Corbyn resists calls to apologise to British Jews after rabbi's claims
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