Jeremy Corbyn’s allies snapped at reporters who tried to ask about anti-Semitism today – as the leader desperately tried to move from his crisis on by talking about the NHS.
Mr Corbyn staged a stunt claiming to reveal sensitive documents about US-UK trade talks, after he was left reeling by Britain’s chief rabbi saying he is not fit to become PM.
But the veteran left-winger is under more pressure after members of his own shadow cabinet urged him to apologise to Jews – something he repeatedly refused to do in a car crash BBC interview last night.
At a press conference in Westminster this morning, Mr Corbyn again stopped of offering a personal apology – merely saying the party as an institution had ‘offered its sympathies and apologies’.
‘Our party did make it clear when I was elected leader and after that that anti-Semitism was unacceptable in any form in our society and in our party – and did indeed offer its sympathies and apologies to those that had suffered,’ he said.
Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardener angrily rebuked reporters for asking about the controversy instead of focusing on ‘leaked’ documents that Labour claims show the NHS could be undermined in talks with the US over a post-Brexit trade deal.
‘Is that just an opportune moment to get a dig in about something else?’ he snapped. ‘We are here today to talk about a trade deal.’
Boris Johnson flatly dismissed the health service would be compromised in any pact, branding the dossier a ‘distraction tactic’.
The documents are from more than a year ago – well before Boris Johnson was PM, and only includes officials rather than ministers. No formal negotiations have taken place, and a deal could not be done until after Brexit.
The unredacted versions have also been shared on Reddit for months, and were even tweeted by a Labour MEP five days ago without attracting any attention.
Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardener (left) angrily rebuked reporters for asking about the anti-Semitism controversy instead of focusing on ‘leaked’ documents
Mr Corbyn staged a stunt claiming to reveal sensitive documents about US-UK trade talks, after he was left reeling by Britain’s chief rabbi saying he is not fit to become PM
Mr Corbyn posed with Labour activist NHS workers after unveiling his ‘secret’ document on Westminster today
Mr Corbyn’s latest evasion will caused fresh dismay in Labour ranks as the long-running crisis threatened to lay waste to their election campaign.
The leader hastily arranged to make an announcement on the NHS this morning, in an apparent attempt to move on from the debacle. It is thought that Labour was intending to deploy the material when Donald Trump comes to London for a NATO summit next week.
Corbynistas turn on BBC’s Andrew Neil to accuse him of ‘bias’ after car-crash interview
Furious Corbynistas branded the BBC’s leading political interviewer a ‘bully’ and a ‘first class w***er’ today after a bruising live television encounter for Jeremy Corbyn.
Andrew Neil was attacked by left-wingers including journeyman footballer turned radio pundit Stan Collymore after tearing into Mr Corbyn over anti-Semitism and his economic plans in front of three million viewers.
Mr Collymore, the former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker, branded it part of a ‘very British coup’ and accusing Mr Neil of ‘bias towards his personal world view’.
He later sparked a Twitter row with Mr Neil after labelling him a ‘Conservative to his core’ whose questions were ‘bias (sic) towards his personal world view’.
The interviewer hit back, saying: ‘Delighted you want to be involved in politics. Get back to me when you’ve done your homework and know what you’re talking about.’
Other Corbynistas also tore into Mr Neil, who is well-known for his aggressive, dogged and impartial interview technique.
They also attacked his BBC colleague Nick Robinson online after he branded the interview ‘memorable’.
Frontbenchers have also tried to limit the damage by expressing their own regret over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism by hard-Left activists.
Speaking as part of a BBC Wales debate, shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has arranged to meet the Chief Rabbi and I would say absolutely that we need to apologise to our colleagues in my own party who have been very upset and to the whole of the Jewish community as a whole, that we have not been as effective as we should have been in dealing with this problem.’
She added: ‘It is a shame on us, it really is, and it is something that I am very, very ashamed of, and something we must absolutely put right.’
Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, a Corbyn ultra-loyalist, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the party was sorry.
And shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘I feel a great sense of sorrow and I want to apologise.’
In a theatrical ‘reveal’ this morning, Mr Corbyn claimed the 451 pages covered six rounds of negotiations – taking place in Washington and London – starting in July 2107.
Speaking at a news conference in London, the Labour leader said the papers gave the lie to Boris Johnson’s claims that the NHS would not be part of any trade talks. ‘The uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters,’ he told a news conference in London.
However, the documents do not cover any of the period when Mr Johnson was PM, and only mention the NHS a handful of times.
Mr Johnson said the dossier was a ‘diversionary tactic’. ‘We are absolutely determined that there will be no sale of the NHS, no privatisation. The NHS is not on the table.’
Trade Secretary Liz Truss accused Labour of ‘out and out lying’. ‘He has always believed in conspiracy theories – which is why he has failed to crack down on the scourge of anti-Semitism in his party,’ she said.
‘This is the man that has caused huge offence by blaming an imaginary ‘Zionist lobby’ for society’s ills and now he has decided to smear UK officials too.’
During a catastrophic half-hour grilling last night, the Labour leader:
- Admitted his party could not pay for its £58billion plan to compensate so-called ‘Waspi’ women who lost part of their pension – and said the party would have to borrow the cash;
- Conceded low earners could face higher taxes under Labour, despite his previous pledge to limit rises to the rich;
- Repeatedly refused to say whether he would authorise the killing of the Islamic State terror group leader if UK special forces found him;
- Could not say who would lead the campaign for his Brexit deal in a second referendum in which he has pledged to remain neutral;
- Acknowledged that Labour would keep free movement in all but name;
- Did not know that the top 5 per cent of earners, who he has targeted for tax rises, already pay 50 per cent of all income tax.
In an unprecedented intervention yesterday, Rabbi Mirvis publicly suggested Mr Corbyn was ‘unfit for office’ because of his failure to deal with the anti-Semitism crisis that has ‘poisoned’ Labour since he became leader in 2015.
He dismissed Labour’s claims to be doing everything it could on the issue as ‘mendacious fiction’.
Britain’s most senior Jewish leader was backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said it should ‘alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews’.
Labour MP Wes Streeting, welcomed the archbishop’s comments, saying: ‘This is how a real leader responds to the unprecedented statement by the Chief Rabbi. I am proud of my church and ashamed of my party.’
Former Labour cabinet minister Lord Falconer, who was due to lead an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party for Mr Corbyn before the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced its own probe, said Labour deserved the criticism.
Labour-backing NHS staff handed out the leaked dossier as Mr Corbyn tried to amp up the drama for his stunt
Mr Johnson insisted the NHS would not be ‘on the table’ in any post-Brexit trade talks as he visited West Cornwall today
Justice Secretary Richard Burgon (right), a Corbyn ultra-loyalist, said the party was sorry. And shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth (left) said: ‘I feel a great sense of sorrow and I want to apologise.’
Mr Corbyn endured a catastrophic half-hour grilling at the hands of the veteran BBC journalist last night
Boris Johnson moved to neutralise the Labour stunt by tweeting that the NHS will not be ‘on the table’ in any trade talks (left). The unredacted versions have also been shared on Reddit for months, and were even tweeted by a Labour MEP five days ago (right) without attracting any attention
The Hindu Council also backed Rabbi Mirvis – and said that anti-Hindu prejudice had festered under Labour.
Anil Bhanot, the Hindu Council’s director for interfaith relations, said: ‘It is a sad state of affairs that a major political party in our country which used to be a progressive socialist voice has veered towards what is almost a fascist ideology.’
Sturgeon demands £4bn for NHS in Scotland as price for propping up Corbyn in No10
Nicola Sturgeon today demanded £4billion in extra funding for the NHS in Scotland as her latest price for supporting a minority Labour government.
The SNP leader has already said Jeremy Corbyn would have to promise to allow a second referendum on Scottish independence next year and to scrap the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent to get her support.
And this morning she went even further as she launched her party’s general election manifesto in Glasgow by calling for a massive increase in the NHS budget north of the border.
Nicola Sturgeon today launched the SNP’s general election manifesto with a demand for more NHS funding
Ms Sturgeon reiterated her willingness to strike a ‘progressive alliance’ after the election to ‘lock the Tories out of government at Westminster’.
But in an embarrassing moment for Mr Corbyn, Ms Sturgeon said she was ‘not a fan’ and that if she was asked to choose a Labour leader ‘it would not be Jeremy’.
She insisted she is only open to propping him up in order to oust Boris Johnson and to scupper the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal which she said would be a ‘nightmare for Scotland’.
She said voting for the SNP on December 12 would represent a vote to ‘escape Brexit’.
Mr Corbyn described anti-Semitism as ‘an evil within our society’, adding: ‘There is no place whatsoever for anti-Semitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain.’
But, during a fractious interview, in which he appeared to be close to losing his temper, Mr Corbyn suggested the Chief Rabbi had got his facts wrong.
Asked about the rabbi’s comments, he said: ‘I’m looking forward to having a discussion with him because I want to hear why he would say such a thing.’
Mr Corbyn also denied that the blight increased after he took over the party.
The Labour leader was challenged over Rabbi Mirvis’s allegation that his party’s claims of action were false.
Insiders say at least 130 cases are still outstanding and the independent group Mainstream last night produced a dossier claiming ten Labour candidates have made anti-Semitic comments.
But Mr Corbyn rejected the rabbi’s comments, saying: ‘No, he’s not right. Because he would have to produce the evidence to say that’s mendacious.’
Mr Neil offered the Labour leader four chances to apologise, all of which he rejected.
Mr Corbyn initially declined to say whether it was anti-Semitic to suggest ‘Rothschild’s Zionists run Israel and world governments’, as one Labour activist had claimed. After several attempts, Mr Corbyn eventually conceded that it was.
Mr Corbyn was also challenged over why three senior Labour figures who have faced accusations of anti-Semitism joined him on the stage for the launch of Labour’s ‘Race and Faith manifesto’ yesterday.
Asked directly about the case of Apsana Begum, Labour’s candidate in Poplar and Limehouse, who shared a Facebook post suggesting some of Saudi Arabia’s actions were ‘inspired by their Zionist masters’, Mr Corbyn said: ‘It’s not the language they should use, not the language I would use.’
Today Mr Burgon said ‘of course we’re sorry for the hurt caused’ as he was pressed over the issue.
He told BBC Radio 4’s 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 CORBYN’S FOUR REFUSALS TO APOLOGISE OVER ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE LABOUR PARTY
Andrew Neil: Many Jews, 80 per cent of Jews, think that you’re anti-Semitic. That’s quite a lot of British Jews. I mean, wouldn’t you like to take this opportunity tonight to apologise to the British Jewish community for what’s happened?
Jeremy Corbyn: 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…
AN: So no apology?
JC: …against the abuse they receive, on the streets, on the trains or in any…
AN: So no apology for how you’ve handled this?
JC: …or any other form of life.
AN: Try one more time. No apology?
JC: No, hang on a minute Andrew, can I explain what we’re trying to do?
AN: You have and you’ve been given plenty of time to do that. I asked you if you wanted to apologise and you haven’t.
JC: Andrew, I don’t want anyone to go through what anyone has gone through…
AN: And you’ve said that several times. I understand that, Mr Corbyn, I was asking you about an apology. Let’s move on to Brexit…
JC: Well hang on, can I just make it clear. Racism in our society is a total poison.
AN: You’ve said that several times. So you know we get that. I’m not arguing about that.
JC: Be it Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or…
AN: And you’ve said that too. Let’s move on to Brexit.
JC: …any other form of racism. And I want to work with every community to make sure it’s eliminated. That is what my whole life has been about.
AN: You made that clear and people will make up their own minds. Let’s move on to Brexit.
Corbynistas admit Labour leader’s interview with Andrew Neil was ‘truly horrific, awful’ as they launch panicked bid to ‘drown out’ online reaction to it
Labour activists admitted Jeremy Corbyn’s performance on the Andrew Neil show was ‘truly horrific’ as they vowed to ‘push images and stories with positive messages’ to try and deflect from the ‘awful’ appearance.
During the interview which aired last night on the BBC, Mr Corbyn refused four times to apologise to the UK Jewish community after the Chief Rabbi slammed the party for how it deals with anti-Semitism.
The Labour leader was challenged over Ephraim Mirvis’s allegation that the party’s claims it is doing everything to tackle anti-Jewish racism was a ‘mendacious fiction’.
‘No, he’s not right. Because he would have to produce the evidence to say that’s mendacious,’ Mr Corbyn replied.
But he floundered when Mr Neil detailed specific cases of anti-Semitism by Labour members who faced little or no sanction.
Corbyn was also forced to admit Labour would breach its longstanding promise not to raise taxes on workers earning under £80,000.
The messages (examples above) were thought to have been sent by Labour activists who described the interview as ‘horrific’
He repeated that claim for the past two years, but he conceded last night it was not the case, in an admission that threatens to undermine the party’s fiscal credibility.
The messages which are alleged to have been sent between so-called Corbynistas attacked the Labour leader’s performance on the show, before discussing how they would try and rectify it.
They are thought to have been leaked from a private WhatsApp or Apple group chat and start with one user saying ‘folks need to listen up for a sec’.
They then go on to state how the interview was pre-recorded, and mention his non-apology to the Chief Rabbi. The messages seem to have all come from one user.
‘Jeremy has pre-recorded the Andrew Neil interview already and apparently it’s truly horrific.
‘Like awful. Ten minutes purely on AS. The chief rabbi ect. JC refused to apologise to the Rabbi so it’s going to be brutal’.
The same person then calls for the group to ‘flood all hashtags relating to the programme with the above’.
‘Stories with positive messages and push integrity policies’.