Jeremy Corbyn pleads with Jewish Labour Movement not to quit party over anti-semitism
Jeremy Corbyn has urged the Jewish Labour Movement not to break its historic link with the party, as he acknowledged the "enormous distress" caused by anti-semitism among its members.
The 2,000-strong group, which has been affiliated to Labour since 1920, will hold meetings in Manchester and London on Wednesday to decide whether to sever ties with the party over its handling of anti-Jewish racism.
The meeting comes after the group's parliamentary chair, Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, quit Labour with a warning it had become "institutionally anti-semitic".
But in a letter to JLM chair Ivor Caplin, Mr Corbyn urged the group to stay, saying it was "integral to the Labour family".
He said: "I want to express my sincere hope that the JLM will decide to continue a relationship that has been fundamental to the history of our party and our movement.
"This morning our Shadow Cabinet discussed this and affirmed our support for JLM's affiliation and our very strong desire for you to remain part of our movement."
Mr Corbyn acknowledged that the "scourge" of anti-semitism "does exist within our party" - and said he understood why Jewish communities groups had "expressed frustration" with Labour's processes for rooting out abuse, which he admitted had "certainly moved too slowly".
"I recognise the enormous distress caused to the Jewish community and, of course, to Jewish Labour members, when antisemitic sentiments and tropes are repeated by members of our party," he said.
"These concerns must not be denied or dismissed. It is not acceptable for an atmosphere of hostility or bigotry to arise in any corner of our movement."
Taking aim at what he called "misleading stories" about Labour's complaints process, Mr Corbyn held out the prospect of a fresh meeting between the JLM and the leader's office.
And he called on the group to stay part of the "greatest force for progressive change that this country has ever known".
A separate statement from the Shadow Cabinet meanwhile insisted that Labour's top team was "committed to the fight against antisemitism" and urged the "proud affiliate and essential voice" of the JLM to stay and "work with us in the struggle against hatred".
The joint statement said: "Each of us recognises the leadership role we must ourselves play in addressing antisemitism and all forms of racism in our society, and especially where it exists in our movement and Party."
A message to JLM members from the affliate's national secretary Peter Mason ahead of the meeting said: "It will be for you to judge the sincerity of their content, and the record of the Leadership and Party's actions."
The pleas from Mr Corbyn and the Shadow Cabinet came as more than 100 Labour MPs penned their own letter to JLM acknowledging that the party had "let our Jewish supporters and members down by failing to eradicate the antisemitism within our ranks".
Coordinated by Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy and signed by 104 MPs, the letter also bears the name of frontbenchers including Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson and Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner.
They said: "Each of us recognises the leadership role we must ourselves play in addressing this toxic racism, calling out those who seek to make solidarity with our Jewish comrades a test of foreign policy and proudly standing with them in saying and acting to ensure antisemitism has no place in the Labour movement at any level.
"We know words mean little when not backed by deeds."