Jeremy Corbyn has warned that the antisemitism row engulfing Labour could cost it power at Holyrood and Westminster as he issued a dramatic plea for unity.
The UK leader used his keynote address to the party’s Scottish spring conference in Dundee to insist there was “no justification for abuse of anybody”.
But it came as a coruscating letter from party peers emerged condemning Mr Corbyn over his “political failure” to tackle antisemitism in the party.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said last week it was considering an investigation into Labour.
Mr Corbyn confronted the issue yesterday as he told party delegates the lives of working class voters could be transformed with “Labour governments in London and Edinburgh”. But he added: “To get there we have to be united.
“That doesn’t mean we have no room for disagreement. Discussion and debate are the lifeblood of our democracy, but there is no justification for the abuse of anybody.
“Racism, religious bigotry and misogyny have no place whatsoever in our movement.
“And we will root out antisemitism in our party and in society at large.
“We, the Labour party, must lead the fight against all types of racism.”
Labour has been under fire over its handling of antisemitism complaints amid claims Mr Corbyn’s team had advised disciplinary groups over how to handle some cases.
It has prompted Labour members in the House of Lords to complain to the leader in a letter that emerged yesterday.
Their chairman told the Politics Home website that peers wanted to express their alarm “at what is frankly an embarrassing and hugely damaging mess caused by the ongoing failure to remove antisemites from our party”.
He said: “This failure diminishes the moral authority of the Labour party, undermines our whole ethos and calls into question our wider commitment to anti-racism.”
Mr Corbyn insisted yesterday that Labour had a responsibility as a “force for progressive change” during a half-hour address.
“The only thing that can hold us back is if we were to turn our fire on each other rather than on the Tory government,” he said.
“With the Conservatives in disarray, now is the time to come together and defeat them.”
And he warned if Theresa May failed to get her Brexit deal through Parliament next week, it would mark an “unprecedented failure in British political history”.
Labour still favours a general election as a solution to the Brexit impasse and will push for its alternative plan of a “softer Brexit”, including a new customs union and closer alignment to the single market. The party would also support a People’s Vote, but there are questions over the commitment to a second referendum.
“We will not allow the failure of this government to take our country over the cliff edge,” Mr Corbyn said. “Right now, what matters is protecting jobs and living standards.”