Senior Labour figures have warned that the anti-Semitism row engulfing the party could damage its hopes in UK-wide elections this week, including the Scottish Parliament vote.
Jeremy Corbyn insisted he and the party “stand absolutely against racism in any form” as senior allies accused internal critics of whipping up a false “crisis” to undermine his position.
“We stand united as a Labour movement recognising our faith diversity, our ethnic diversity, and from that diversity comes up strength,” he declared as he addressed a May Day rally in London.
It came as the party’s London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan indicated that his prospects of victory on Thursday had been damaged by ex-City Hall chief Ken Livingstone’s highly-controversial comments linking Hitler and Zionism. The ex-minister – seen as the Opposition’s best hope of a positive result in elections across the UK – said the leadership had acted too slowly to tackle concerns about racist views in the ranks.
Labour’s leader in Scotland, Kezia Dugdale, said yesterday that the row hasn’t helped her Holyrood election hopes, with the party locked in battle with the Tories for second.
“A news agenda dominated by Ken Livingstone hasn’t helped in that regard,” she said.
Mr Corbyn announced an independent review and pledged to tighten party codes of conduct in a bid to put a lid on the furore – which has seen MP Naz Shah and close ally Ken Livingstone suspended.
But he faced calls from Israeli politicians and diplomats to give a more “unequivocal” condemnation and warnings that the party would be punished in the 5 May elections. Votes are also taking place for the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted the issue is not restricted to labour after SNP MSP Sandra White had to apologise last year for a tweet branded anti-semitic.
“We’ve all got to be absolutely firm in our determination to stamp out anti-Semitism or indeed any racism or intolerance,” Ms Sturgeon said.