Labour 'anti-racist to its core,' says leader after former London mayor Ken Livingstone suspended over claims Hitler supported Zionism
Jeremy Corbyn has moved to tackle a Labour Party row over anti-Semitism by introducing a new code of conduct and launching an investigation headed by civil rights activist and former Liberty chief Shami Chakrabarti.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Corbyn reasserted the party’s commitment to tackling racism in all its forms, amid a furore caused by former London mayor Ken Livingstone’s comments alleging Hitler had “supported” Zionism.
“Labour is an anti-racist party to its core and has a long and proud history of standing against racism, including anti-Semitism,” Corbyn said.
“I have campaigned against racism all my life and the Jewish community has been at the heart of the Labour Party and progressive politics in Britain for more than 100 years.”
News reports have indicated, however, that Corbyn’s opponents in the Labour Party are planning to make use of the scandal as an opportunity to launch a “coup” against the leader.
The row began after Livingstone intervened to defend Labour MP Naz Shah over accusations of anti-Semitism by claiming that Hitler had “supported” Zionism.
Speaking on LBC radio on Saturday, he apologised for the “disruption” his comments had caused but stood by their substance.
"I'm always going to say what I believe to be true, otherwise what's the point in being in politics", he said.
"I'm really sorry to Jeremy and to the Labour Party while they're campaigning, I got caught up in all of this."
Senior Labour figures have argued that there is a need for the party to tackle the issue of anti-Semitism in a far more intensive manner than they had previously been doing.
“These allegations, when they are surfacing, are not being dealt with properly and quickly enough. They need to be dealt with much more speedily in the future,” said Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham on BBC1’s Question Time on Thursday.
“If I thought for one second that I was a member of an anti-Semitic party I would cut up my membership card, right here, right now. I don’t believe that is the case.”
Others however, have accused the Conservative party and right-wing members of the Labour party of exploiting the scandal to attack Corbyn’s leadership.
The Jewish Socialist Group, a left-wing activist organisation generally supportive of Corbyn’s leadership, released a statement on Thursday accusing Corbyn’s enemies of trying to undermine his electoral prospects.
“The accusations do not refer to anti-Semitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership,” read the statement.
“Those making the charges now did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.”