Jeremy Corbyn has rejected accusations that Labour is not doing enough to root anti-Semitism out of his party.
The Labour leader insisted anti-Jewish racism was “vile and wrong” and that the party had a “rapid and effective system” for dealing with complaints after an unprecedented warning from Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
Rabbi Mirvis, in article published yesterday, said: “A new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party.
“How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office?”
Mr Corbyn, under questioning from veteran journalist Andrew Neil last night, said: “I’m looking forward to having a discussion with Rabbi Mirvis because I want to hear why he would say such a thing.”
The Labour leader was challenged over Rabbi Mirvis’s allegation that Labour’s claims it is doing everything to tackle anti-Jewish racism was a “mendacious fiction”.
“No, he’s not right. Because he would have to produce the evidence to say that’s mendacious,” Mr Corbyn replied.
He insisted he has “developed a much stronger process” and had sanctioned and removed members who have been anti-Semitic.
Mr Corbyn also denied that the blight increased after he took over the party.
He said: “It didn’t rise after I became leader.
“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 of their anti-Semitic behaviour.”
Mr Corbyn was also quizzed on Brexit, his tax plans and borrowing as part of a series of BBC interviews with those vying to become the next prime minister.
On Brexit, he said he would “be the honest broker that will make sure the referendum is fair and make sure that the Leave deal is a credible one.”
But Mr Corbyn was unable to say who would campaign for his Brexit deal, with much of his shadow cabinet eager to campaign for Remain.
On his taxation plans, Mr Corbyn denied that a significant part of his income tax base would leave the country if he took power.
“No, it doesn’t crumble at all,” he said.
“They can see all around them the crumbling of public services and the terrible levels of child poverty that exist across Britain.”
Mr Corbyn also declined to say for certain whether he would give the orders to take out any new leader of so-called Islamic State if it was not possible to arrest them.
He said: “I will take the appropriate decision at the appropriate time with all the information, you asked me a hypothetical question in a hypothetical scenario.”