Senior Yorkshire backbencher Richard Burgon says Labour is 'sorry' for hurt to Jewish community over anti-Semitism

A senior Labour Yorkshire politician today said the party is "sorry" for the hurt caused to the Jewish community over the way it had dealt with complaints of anti-Semitism within its ranks.

By Rob Parsons
Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 11:02 am

Jeremy Corbyn was facing a backlash after he repeatedly refused to apologise for the way the party acted during a TV interview on Tuesday - despite a blistering attack on his record by the Chief Rabbi.

However, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, Labour's candidate for Leeds East, insisted the party's leader had already apologised to the Jewish community on a number of occasions.

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Richard Burgon, Labour candidate for Leeds East

Mr Burgon - a close ally of Mr Corbyn - acknowledged Labour had not acted fast enough to deal with the issue and said they were sorry for the "very real hurt" that had been caused.

"Of course we're sorry for the hurt caused," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"Jeremy has apologised on a number of occasions and said that he's sorry for the very real hurt felt by people in the Jewish community.

"So, on a number of occasions last summer for example, he has made those statements and it's right that he did.

"Jeremy's already said that the Labour Party's processes were wrong, they weren't swift enough, they weren't hard enough, that's been proved and that's right."

His comments came amid intense criticism from within the Labour ranks after Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said a "poison" - "sanctioned from the top" - had taken root in the party and suggested Mr Corbyn was unfit to be prime minister.

Lisa Baker, the President of the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, said the absence of leadership from Jeremy Corbyn on the issue was a "threat to the community".

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I am extremely saddened that our Chief Rabbi has felt compelled to comment on Jeremy Corbyn's failure to deal with anti-Semitism and anti Jewish racism in the Labour Party, that the Archbishop of Canterbury has leant his support gives weight to the despair that is felt.

"The level of anti-Jewish racism in the party remains unaddressed. Jeremy Corbyn was told by our national representatives bodies of the JLC and BoD in 2018 what he needed to do and he failed to act and this failure continues.

"The investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the reports of unaddressed complaints should tell the leadership they must do more but the absence of leadership is a threat to the community and nationally people are taking note, leading voters away."

It prompted shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith to say she was "very, very ashamed" at the way the party had behaved and to call for an apology.

The row broke on a difficult day for the Labour leader which threatened to derail the party's General Election campaign efforts.

During the course of a television interview with the BBC's Andrew Neil, he was forced to acknowledge some low-income taxpayers could end up paying more under Labour's manifesto proposals.

He also came under pressure to explain how the party would pay for a £58 billion pledge to compensate the so-called "Waspi" women who lost out as a result of pension changes under the former coalition government.

Mr Burgon said Labour was determined to right the injustice which had been done to the women, born in the 1950s, when the pension age changed.

"The Labour Party makes no apology for taking the action necessary to right this wrong. These women had paid in, they expected this in their pensions, they were short-changed, that's wrong," he said.

He acknowledged the marriage tax allowance was "going away" under Labour's plans, but added: "It's more than made up for in the extra funding, the extra resources they'll be getting."

Meanwhile, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has insisted the Tories were committed to a thorough review of "prejudice, racism and discrimination" within the party following criticism by the Muslim Council of Britain over its handling of complaints of Islamophobia.

"We want to be a party that has no tolerance whatsoever of racism, prejudice or discrimination of any kind," he told the Today programme.

"This will be a very thorough investigation led by independent individuals and the findings of it will be put into the public domain."