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Labour sorry for hurt caused to Jewish community, says Richard Burgon

The shadow justice secretary said the party was too slow to react to complaints of anti-Semitism after Jeremy Corbyn refused to apologise.

Richard Burgon said Jeremy Corbyn has already apologised to the Jewish community (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Richard Burgon said Jeremy Corbyn has already apologised to the Jewish community (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

A senior Labour frontbencher has said the party is “sorry” for the hurt caused to the Jewish community over the way it had dealt with complaints of anti-Semitism within its ranks.

Jeremy Corbyn was facing a backlash after he repeatedly refused to apologise for the way the party acted during a TV interview on Tuesday – despite a blistering attack on his record by the Chief Rabbi.

However, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon insisted the Labour leader had already apologised to the Jewish community on a number of occasions.

Mr Burgon – a close ally of Mr Corbyn – acknowledged Labour had not acted fast enough to deal with the issue and said they were sorry for the “very real hurt” that had been caused.

“Of course we’re sorry for the hurt caused,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“Jeremy has apologised on a number of occasions and said that he’s sorry for the very real hurt felt by people in the Jewish community.

“So, on a number of occasions last summer for example, he has made those statements and it’s right that he did.

“Jeremy’s already said that the Labour Party’s processes were wrong, they weren’t swift enough, they weren’t hard enough, that’s been proved and that’s right.”

His comments came amid intense criticism from within the Labour ranks after Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said a “poison” – “sanctioned from the top” – had taken root in the party and suggested Mr Corbyn was unfit to be prime minister.

It prompted shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith to say she was “very, very ashamed” at the way the party had behaved and to call for an apology.

The row broke on a difficult day for the Labour leader which threatened to derail the party’s General Election campaign efforts.

During the course of a television interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, he was forced to acknowledge some low-income taxpayers could end up paying more under Labour’s manifesto proposals.

He also came under pressure to explain how the party would pay for a £58 billion pledge to compensate the so-called “Waspi” women who lost out as a result of pension changes under the former coalition government.

These women had paid in, they expected this in their pensions, they were short-changed, that's wrong Richard Burgon, Labour

Mr Burgon said Labour was determined to right the injustice which had been done to the women, born in the 1950s, when the pension age changed.

“The Labour Party makes no apology for taking the action necessary to right this wrong. These women had paid in, they expected this in their pensions, they were short-changed, that’s wrong,” he said.

He acknowledged the marriage tax allowance was “going away” under Labour’s plans, but added: “It’s more than made up for in the extra funding, the extra resources they’ll be getting.”

Meanwhile, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has insisted the Tories were committed to a thorough review of “prejudice, racism and discrimination” within the party following criticism by the Muslim Council of Britain over its handling of complaints of Islamophobia.

“We want to be a party that has no tolerance whatsoever of racism, prejudice or discrimination of any kind,” he told the Today programme.

“This will be a very thorough investigation led by independent individuals and the findings of it will be put into the public domain.”

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