Jeremy Corbyn sparks angry backlash from MPs over failure to acknowledge antisemitism probe

Tempers flare at Parliamentary Labour Party meeting that many MPs call Corbyn's 'worst yet'


Jeremy Corbyn has sparked an angry backlash from his MPs with a speech that sought to whitewash claims of institutional antisemitism that the equalities watchdog is now investigating.

Addressing Monday's meeting of Labour MPs in Westminster, Mr Corbyn failed to even mention the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry launched last month.

The Labour leader also praised MPs who had campaigned for Peterborough by-election winner Lisa Forbes - while failing to acknowledge the antisemitism row that dogged her campaign in its final days and led some to be deeply uneasy about her victory.

But Mr Corbyn's spokesperson later told the JC: "There's no attempt to avoid that issue at all. Jeremy is extremely strong on the issue of antisemitism and taking action against it."

After finishing his speech, which also gave little clarity over Labour's Brexit position, MP Ruth Smeeth accused the Labour leader of allowing "institutional anti-Jewish racism on your watch."

Ms Smeeth, who is the Jewish Labour Movement's parliamentary chair, confronted her leader and ended by saying: "Jeremy, what are you doing?"

Three MPs who later left the meeting were overhead branding Mr Corbyn "an a*se."

Mr Corbyn was visibly angered when Ilford North MP Wes Streeting raised the Labour leader's failure to explain how the party was responding to the EHRC's inquiry, which will look into claims it has failed to tackle Jew-hate.

And the mood threatened to turn ugly in the room after veteran Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge spoke and addressed her serious concern over the selection of Ms Forbes as the Peterborough election candidate.

Dame Margaret raised questions over the new MP, who was revealed to have liked a Facebook post about Theresa May's "Zionist slave master's agenda", approved of a post saying Mossad created Isis and signed a letter attacking the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Pro-Corbyn MP Karen Lee tried to heckle Dame Margaret, claiming Ms Forbes, who had suggested she would be reaching out to the Jewish community at the start of the meeting, should be allowed to speak for herself.

Tempers threatened to boil over on several occasions in what many MPs said was the Labour leader's "worst meeting yet" with the Parliamentary Labour Party.

One member of the Labour whips' office left the meeting joking: "Well that went well then!"

Another described the mood inside of the room as "vicious".

Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, said she knew many members who were leaving because of the antisemitism row in the party.

She was cheered by other MPs when she said that many people were disgusted at the treatment of Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary, after she urged a tougher anti-Brexit policy on the night of the European elections.

Ms Thornberry, who has faced speculation that she will be moved from her current role was part of a reshuffle, sat stoney faced throughout the meeting.

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips told the meeting that complaints made by women about harassment are not dealt with properly because "people get protected if they are part of the cult of Corbyn".

"On Brexit, antisemitism and sexual harassment, he has no idea how to respond or deal with it, just the repetition of tired old cliches," another MP said as they left the room.

In another outspoken attack MP Marie Rimmer - who backs a second referendum on Brexit - said that even she had found it difficult to vote for the party at last month's European elections.

Speaking directly to Mr Corbyn, she said: "People who have supported and worked with you for years are turning away from you. The leadership’s not there."

Mr Corbyn's spokesperson later added:"We talked about the EHRC investigation when it was launched. We are cooperating fully with the investigation into our procedures.

"As Jeremy said in the meeting we have changed our procedures and brought in staff and changed our constitution to be more effective on this issue.

"And since Jennie Formby has become general secretary, it's been a central focus."

Ms Forbes has written to the Board of Deputies, Jewish Labour Movement and the Jewish Leadership Council in an bid to show her regret over her actions.

Only around 30 Labour MPs were there to greet her - including Mr Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott - as she was sworn in on Monday afternoon, though by custom all MPs are meant to attend.

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