Jeremy Corbyn has rejected the findings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into anti-Semitism in Labour under his leadership.
In a post on Facebook, he claimed that the findings were “dramatically overstated” but denounced anti-Semitism.
He wrote: “Anti-semitism is absolutely abhorrent, wrong and responsible for some of humanity’s greatest crimes.
“As Leader of the Labour Party I was always determined to eliminate all forms of racism and root out the cancer of antisemitism. I have campaigned in support of Jewish people and communities my entire life and I will continue to do so.
“The EHRC’s report shows that when I became Labour leader in 2015, the Party’s processes for handling complaints were not fit for purpose. Reform was then stalled by an obstructive party bureaucracy. But from 2018, Jennie Formby and a new NEC that supported my leadership made substantial improvements, making it much easier and swifter to remove antisemites. My team acted to speed up, not hinder the process.
“Anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party is wrong.
“Of course there is, as there is throughout society, and sometimes it is voiced by people who think of themselves as on the left.
“Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should.
“One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.
“My sincere hope is that relations with Jewish communities can be rebuilt and those fears overcome. While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.”
But EHRC lead investigator Alasdair Henderson rejected Corbyn’s claim that the scale of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party was “dramatically overstated”.
Asked about the former Labour leader’s response, Mr Henderson said: “I can only take you back to the findings of our report and ask you to compare them. We found two specific unlawful acts, 18 more in the sample that we found, and that’s the tip of the iceberg.
“There were a lot more instances of anti-Semitic conduct by members of the party in that large group of files that we looked at which didn’t quite meet the threshold for us to say they were an unlawful act, but were definitely there and taking place.”
The chief executive of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Gideon Falter, also criticised the response.
He told a virtual discussion: “There is a very sad response from Jeremy Corbyn.
“He still says that the problem was overstated. That it was, essentially, overstated for political reasons – it’s a smear campaign.”