Jeremy Corbyn urges Chief Rabbi to 'engage' with him after anti-semitism criticism
Jeremy Corbyn has urged the Chief Rabbi to "engage" with him following his criticism of the party's handling of anti-semitism.
The Labour leader said his door was "open to all faith leaders" after Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis branded him "unfit for high office" over the party's response to anti-semitism in its ranks.
Speaking at the launch of Labour's 'Race and Faith manifesto', Mr Corbyn said anti-Jewish hatred was "vile and wrong" as he insisted his party had a "rapid and effective system" for tackling complaints about members.
It comes after Rabbi Mirvis said a "new poison" had "taken root" in Labour and urged the public to "vote with their conscience" in the upcoming election.
Writing in the Times, the Chief Rabbi claimed the "very soul of our nation" was at stake ahead of the 12 December poll as he warned a majority of British Jews were "gripped with anxiety".
But speaking during the event on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn said: "I just want to make this very clear - anti-semitism in any form is vile and wrong.
"It is an evil within our society, it is an evil that grew in Europe in the 1920s and onwards and ultimately led to the Holocaust.
"There is no place whatsoever for anti-semitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain, and under a Labour government it will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever."
Asked directly about the Chief Rabbi's comments, he said: "There is no place for [anti-semitism], and I ask those that think things have not been done correctly to tell me about it, talk to me about it, but above all, engage.
“I’m very happy to engage with anybody. My whole life has been engagement with people. Sometimes you agree with them, sometimes you don’t, but you only learn by that process of engagement.”
The Labour leader insisted his party had improved its system for rooting out anti-semitism within its ranks, adding: "When people commit anti-semitic acts, they are brought to book, and if necessary expelled from the party or suspended or asked to be better educated about it."
But his remarks appeared to be undermined by Labour peer Lord Falconer - previously asked to undertake a review of Labour's processes for dealing with anti-semitism - who claimed there could still be "thousands" of outstanding cases.
Speaking to the BBC's World At One, he said: "There are 130 cases that have been referred from the National Executive Council of the Labour Party – that is the senior body - to the National Constitution Committee which is the body that deals with serious disciplinary cases," he said.
“There are 130 cases that have been pending, some of them for years.
“Separately from these cases there are hundreds, maybe thousands of cases that need to be investigated.”
He added: "It is a failure of leadership on the part of the Labour Party to say 'this has to be dealt with properly'".
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