Hunt blasts Corbyn’s ‘deeply-held prejudices’ towards Jews as he cites visit to Auschwitz concentration camp and says Labour leader had ‘opened the door to anti-Semitism’
- Tory leadership contender accused Mr Corbyn of turning a ‘blind eye’ to problem
- Said he had ‘opened the door to anti-Semitism in a way that is truly frightening’
- Labour is currently in a civil war over anti-Semitism problem within its ranks
Published: 11:51 EDT, 3 July 2019 | Updated: 13:01 EDT, 3 July 2019
Jeremy Hunt has torn into Jeremy Corbyn over Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis, accusing the Labour leader of having ‘deeply-held prejudices’ against Jews.
The Tory leadership outsider accused Mr Corbyn of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the problem tearing the opposition party apart and suggesting he had himself ‘crossed the line’.
He also cited a visit to the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland and said Mr Corbyn had ‘opened the door to anti-Semitism in a way that is truly frightening’, in an interview with Jewish News.
Labour is currently in a civil war over anti-Semitism. Most recently it has been over the proposed re-admission of MP Chris Williamson with a warning after behavior in recent months, which culminated in saying the party has been ‘too apologetic’ about allegations of anti-Jewish behaviour in its ranks.
Mr Hunt said: ‘When I went to Auschwitz I rather complacently said to myself, ”thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing happening in the UK” and now I find myself faced with the leader of the Labour Party who has opened the door to anti-Semitism in a way that is truly frightening.’
Sense and sensibility? Mr Hunt stood on a chair to take questions from Tory members at Chawton House in Hampshire today, a former home of Jane Austen
Mr Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism claims has been questioned by his own backbenchers as the row shows no sign of abating
Mr Hunt was asked if he agreed with comments by Matt Hancock earlier this month that Tory division risked letting in ‘the first anti-Semitic leader of a Western nation’ since the war.
Jeremy Corbyn will meet top mandarin TODAY over civil service leaks about the Labour leader’s health
Jeremy Corbyn will have a showdown with the head of the Civil Service today over ‘entirely unacceptable’ leaks from top mandarins claiming he is ‘too frail’ to be prime minister.
The Labour leader will host Sir Mark Sedwill in his Commons office as the opposition continues to demand an independent probe into the actions of civil servants who spoke to the Times last week.
Labour has been in a state of uproar ever since the allegations in Saturday’s paper, demanding an investigation be free of bureaucrats’ control to enable it to have ‘trust’ in its findings.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said said today: ‘He will be pressing the case for a genuinely independent investigation into what took place.’
What happened was ‘not only entirely unacceptable, but, I would say, unprecedented in recent times’, the spokesman added, saying Mr Corbyn was in ‘excellent’ health.
He replied: ‘He (Corbyn) has turned a blind eye to anti-Semitism, and I think he has crossed the line from criticising Israel and its foreign policy – which everyone has a legitimate right to do – to criticising the Jewish people.
‘I think some of his comments, for example about Jewish people not understanding English irony, betray some deeply-held prejudices which ought to worry people.’
Mr Corbyn has repeatedly and strenuously denied being an anti-Semite, saying that he opposes racism ‘in all its forms’ and has a long track record of campaigning against discrimination.
His supporters claimed that Mr Hunt’s remarks were ‘utterly insane’.
And Labour MP Richard Burden said: ‘It really is disgraceful that any MP would stoop to this kind of thing, let alone someone who aspires to be prime minister.’
Deputy leader Tom Watson put pressure on Mr Corbyn and his top team to make a stand on ‘bullying’ today as a pregnant Labour MP faced a deselection threat for opposing the readmission of Mr Williamson to the party after an anti-Semitism controversy.
Mr Watson said the ‘entire shadow cabinet’ would want to publicly condemn the ‘reprehensible behaviour’ shown towards Ellie Reeves.
The Lewisham West and Penge MP, 38, is under pressure from members of her constituency Labour Party after she was among a group of 121 Labour MPs and peers who called for Mr Williamson to lose the whip.
Mr Watson, who organised the statement demanding Mr Williamson’s removal from the parliamentary party, said: ‘A small group of members are trying to bully another pregnant MP out of the party.’
‘This reprehensible behaviour cannot be tolerated. We will not accept bullying and threats in our ranks.
More than a million Jews were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz concentration camp (pictured) in Poland during the Second World War
A slew of shadow Cabinet ministers criticised the decision last week to reinstate Mr Williamson, including frontbench allies of Mr Corbyn (pictured at PMQs today)
Mr Hunt said: ‘He (Corbyn) has turned a blind eye to anti-Semitism, and I think he has crossed the line from criticising Israel and its foreign policy – which everyone has a legitimate right to do – to criticising the Jewish people’
‘The entire shadow cabinet will want to publicly condemn this too.’
A slew of shadow Cabinet ministers criticised the decision last week to reinstate Mr Williamson, including frontbench allies of Mr Corbyn including Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner and Jon Ashworth.
The party bowed to a widespread revolt on Friday by halting plans to restore the party whip.
Mr Williamson had been let off with a warning after a pattern of behaviour that included saying the party was ‘too apologetic’ about cases of Jew-hate in February.