Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for the pain caused by anti-Semitism in ‘pockets’ of his party.
Mr Corbyn was criticised by several leading Labour MPs after he defended a controversial mural and his party has been gripped by accusations of anti-Semitism since he became leader.
He has now said that he is ‘sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused’ by anti-Semitism which occurred in ‘pockets within the Labour Party’.
The Labour leader has now said that he is ‘sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused’ by anti-Semitism which occurred in ‘pockets within the Labour Party’ (file pic)
Mr Corbyn said: ‘Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn anti-Semitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism that exists in and around our movement. We must stamp this out from our party and movement.
‘We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country.
‘I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.’
He went on to say that his party has deep roots in the Jewish community and will campaign to increase confidence in Labour among the community.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘Our party has deep roots in the Jewish community and is actively engaged with Jewish organisations across the country.
‘We are campaigning to increase support and confidence in Labour among Jewish people in the UK.
‘I know that to do so, we must demonstrate our total commitment to excising pockets of antisemitism that exist in and around our party.
‘I will be meeting representatives from the Jewish community over the coming days, weeks and months to rebuild that confidence in Labour as a party which gives effective voice to Jewish concerns and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in all its forms. Labour will work to unite communities to achieve social justice in our society.’
His comments come after deputy leader Tom Watson earlier described the mural as ‘horrible’ before defending the leader’s handling of the row.
Mr Corbyn has faced a barrage of criticism for criticising the decision to remove the painting, which depicts a group of ‘hook-nosed’ men around a Monopoly board.
He has admitted the painting is offensive and insisted he did not see it properly when he leapt to its defence on Facebook.
Mr Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, was confronted with the offensive image live on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today.
He said the painting was clearly anti-Semitic and offensive, but defended Mr Corbyn’s handling of the row – saying he has apologised.
Meanwhile the Board of Deputies, Britain’s leading Jewish group, is holding a protest outside Parliament tomorrow to voice their anger at Mr Corbyn over anti-Semitism.
Tom Watson (pictured today) said the anti-Semitic mural Jeremy Corbyn defended was ‘horrible’ – but defended the leader’s handling of the row
The ‘enough is enough’ protest has been timed to coincide with the meeting of the parliamentary Labour party – where Mr Corbyn is expected to be met with anger over the mural if he turns up.
Mr Watson said: ‘My reaction is that was a horrible and anti-Semitic mural that was rightly taken down.
Jewish group call protest over Labour anti-Semitism row
Britain’s leading Jewish group is mounting a protest tomorrow over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The Board of Deputies are urging supporters to go to Parliament Square for the ‘enough is enough’ protest.
It has been timed to coincide with the meeting of the parliamentary Labour party – where Jeremy Corbyn is expected to be met with anger over the mural if he turns up.
In a post online, the Board said: ‘Day in day out we the Jewish community face increasing antisemitism. Enough is enough.
‘The leadership of the Jewish community will be delivering a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party in advance of its meeting at 6pm.
‘We call on members of our community and all those who oppose antisemitism to join us in Parliament Square at 5:30pm to show solidarity.’
‘You are showing it to me on a 32 inch screen on national TV and I’ve seen it over a 1,000 times on twitter.
‘That is very different from seeing it on Facebook on the move.’
Andrew Marr challenged the Labour frontbencher saying you don’t need glasses to sport that the painting is clearly offensive.
But Mr Watson continued to try to defend his party boss, saying: ‘That is why Jeremy has expressed regret and apologised for that, and say it was right the mural was taken down.’
The Labour leader has expressed ‘regret’ that he ‘did not look more closely’ at the work by artist Kalen Ockerman.
When Mr Ockerman complained on Facebook in 2012 that the mural was to be removed, Mr Corbyn replied: ‘Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.’
Many Labour MPs including Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger have hit out at Mr Corbyn over defending the image.
Mr Watson said that rather than focus on Mr Corbyn the row should prompt Labour to work harder to root out anti-Semitism.
He has now admitted the painting – pictured here – is offensive and insisted he did not see it properly when he leapt to its defence on Facebook
He said: ‘It is anti-Semitic and horrible.’
He added: ‘I’m very very sorry that people feel hurt by this.’
Labour has been dogged by anti-Semitism rows ever since Mr Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.
He has recently been exposed for being a member of a Facebook group where anti-Semitic material was posted.
And his close ally Ken Livingstone is suspended from the party after saying that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism by backing the deportation of Jews in the 1930s to Israel.