Jeremy Corbyn has been forced in a live TV broadcast to defend Labour’s failure to expel his ally Ken Livingstone for allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.

The former London mayor avoided expulsion in April this year at a disciplinary hearing into his remarks linking Adolf Hitler and Zionism, but was suspended for a further year.

In a grilling by members of the public on BBC1’s Question Time election special, Mr Corbyn suggested that Mr Livingstone could face further investigation after the election – something which was not ordered by the disciplinary panel in April.

A female audience member asked him how he could be trusted by voters if he would not act on Mr Livingstone.

“You speak about creating an equal society free from racism and anti-Semitism,” said the woman. “How can I believe that when you as party leader have failed to expel one of your own members – Ken Livingstone – for his anti-Semitic remarks?”

Mr Corbyn responded: “There is no place for anti-Semitism anywhere in our society and certainly not in our party.

“Members have been suspended if they have committed any remarks seen to be of an anti-Semitic nature. We have a process that is independent of me within the party which investigates these and makes a decision on it.

“I deplore racism in any form whatsoever. The way in which the Jewish people have suffered down the centuries, the Holocaust and all that went with it, was the most appalling stain in the history of mankind.

“I believe we have to fight racism in any form with every fibre of our being. A society that cannot challenge racism is a society that is heading for division. I will not tolerate it in our party or anywhere else.”

The woman replied: “If it’s something that’s so important to you, how (does it) suffice only to suspend him for a short period of time. How is it not enough to expel him permanently?”

Mr Corbyn said: “He has been suspended and further investigations may or may not happen after the election. He is suspended from membership, but he is suspended so that investigation can take place.”

The audience member who challenged Mr Corbyn, Antonia, told the BBC: “With Corbyn, my issue is he just says one thing and does another.

“I think actions speak louder than words and it’s all very well him saying ‘I oppose anti-Semitism, I’m completely against terrorism, I’m completely against racism’ whilst having an anti-Semitic member of his party and continuing anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist affiliations and calling terrorist organisations his friends.

“He’s just responding to what the crowd want to hear.”