General Election 2019: Corbyn defends his record on anti-Semitism and Jo Swinson wins legal battle against SNP

General Election 2019: Corbyn defends his record on anti-Semitism and Jo Swinson wins legal battle against SNP
In a BBC interview with Andrew Neil, Mr Corbyn insisted he would stamp out anti-Semitism in Labour. Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC.

Corbyn faces off against Andrew Neil, SNP leaflets banned by High Court, Waspi Women, and voter registration surges in the minutes before the deadline passes – all in today’s election briefing.

Labour leader grilled on anti-Semitism

Jeremy Corbyn refused four times to apologise to British Jews after the Chief Rabbi accused him of allowing anti-Semitism to fester in the Labour party.

The Leader of the Opposition insisted Ephraim Mirvis was “not right” to criticise his handling of left-wing activists who have been accused of anti-Jewish racism and challenged him to produce evidence for his claims.

In a BBC interview with Andrew Neil, Mr Corbyn insisted he would stamp out anti-Semitism in Labour – but after being asked four times if he would say sorry to Britain’s Jewish community, he declined to do so. The Board of Deputies of British Jews said his refusal was “shameful.”

On Monday evening, Rabbi Mirvis made an unprecedented political intervention, claiming that Mr Corbyn is “unfit for office” because he is “complicit in prejudice”.

Lord Dubs, a Labour peer and holocaust survivor defended Mr Corbyn on the Today programme, saying that he did not believe the Labour leader was anti-Semitic.

Corbyn told Mr Neil: “Anti-Semitism is there in society, there are a very, very small number of people in the Labour Party that have been sanctioned as a result about their anti-Semitic behaviour.

“We will not allow anti-Semitism in any form in our society because it is poisonous and divisive, just as much as Islamophobia or far-right racism is.”

In a tweet, Mike Katz, national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, called Corbyn’s performance “woeful”.

But other Jewish Labour supporters defended Corbyn, and said he did not need to apologise.

Waspi Women

In the interview, Neil, whose aggressive interrogation was both praised and criticised by viewers on social media, asked how the Labour leader planned to pay out £58bn to the ‘Waspi women’ affected by the rise in the state pension age.

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) pressure group was formed in 2015, to oppose the way women’s state pension age has been equalised with men.

Short on detail, Mr Corbyn said only: “We’ll pay for it because it has to be paid for.”

ITV’s political correspondent, Joe Pike, said that while the Labour leader had prepared for the interview in advance, he did not appear to have clear answers to the questions his team must have known would be asked.

Tweet of the Day: Muslim Council of Britain accuses Tory party of “deceit” over Islamophobia

In a statement mirroring the Chief Rabbi’s criticism of Labour, the Council claimed the Conservatives had approached the issue of Islamophobia in their party with “denial, dismissal, and deceit.”

They said it was “abundantly clear” that Johnson’s party “tolerate Islamophobia” and “allow it to fester in society.”

The statement concludes: “British Muslims…will listen to the Chief Rabbi and agree on the importance of voting with their conscience.”

Voter registration deadline passes

The deadline for voter registration came into force at 11:59pm last night, ahead of the election on 12 December – less than three weeks away.

The government’s registration site saw unprecedented traffic in recent weeks, and an estimated 660,000 people – more than 60 per cent of them aged under 34 – signed up before the deadline yesterday.

When the deadline came into force, there were still more than 13,000 people using the registration site.

Experts suggest that the high numbers of people registering to vote for the first time could prove to be an important factor in the final election result.

Swinson beats the SNP in court

The politician instructed lawyers to go to the Court of Session in Edinburgh after learning of an election communication which is being distributed in her East Dunbartonshire constituency.

In the leaflet, Ms Swinson’s nationalist rival Amy Callaghan claims the Lib Dem politician is a hypocrite because she accepted a £14,000 donation from a “fracking company” – Warwick Energy.

Lawyers acting for Ms Swinson called the statement defamatory, and insisted that the £14,000 donation was made by a director at the company in a personal capacity. They also stated that 80 per cent of Warwick’s output came from renewable energy sources.

Lord Pentland, presiding, ordered the SNP pay Ms Swinson’s costs and ruled that the leaflets could not be distributed.

The ruling comes as Swinson’s own party are accused of leafleting skulduggery. The Society of Editors claims that the Liberal Democrats are “disguising” their campaign materials as newspapers “to mislead readers and voters.”

Read the full story here.

The SNP set to launch their manifesto

Nicola Sturgeon will launch the Scottish Nationalist Party’s manifesto today.

The First Minister is expected to call Boris Johnson “dangerous and unfit for office” in a speech that will argue that the December 12 election will be a change for Scotland to “escape Brexit”.

Before the launch, Sturgeon said: “A vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit, It is a vote to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, and it is a vote to deprive Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party of a majority.”

In a BBC interview on Monday, Sturgeon reiterated her commitment to a second independence referendum, on the condition that there was a majority for it in the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021.