Baroness Shami Chakrabarti has claimed she “would say yes again” if asked with hindsight to conduct her controversial Labour Party report into anti-Semitism.
Speaking at a Jewish community event in Manchester, she said Labour’s Jewish problem had to be dealt with “from within the party” and that her recent ennoblement as a life peer did not damage her report’s credibility.
“My personality and my commitment to human rights” are enough to ensure impartiality, she told a packed audience at King David School at an event hosted by North West Friends of Israel.
But Chakrabarti refused to say if accepting a Labour life peerage less than two months after the report’s publication had helped build trust between Labour and the Jewish community.
“I’ve got nothing to say on that,” the human rights activist said whilst being interviewed by the Jewish Leadership Council’s Simon Johnson.
She also refused to criticise Jeremy Corbyn directly and even said an anti-Semitism inquiry would have been necessary under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s leadership.
Chakrabarti has faced allegations of conducting a “whitewash” since it emerged on 4 August that Jeremy Corbyn had appointed her a Labour Party life peer.
The former Liberty chair published a report on 30 June which concluded the party was ‘not rife’ with anti-Semitism, although some members had expressed ‘ignorant attitudes’.
Jewish leaders have strongly criticised Chakrabarti for accepting the ennoblement, with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis saying her report’s credibility “lay in tatters”.
A Sun on Sunday report today said that Chakrabarti had missed a 21 August deadline set by the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain her conversations about her peerage with Jeremy Corbyn this summer.
But Chakrabarti told the audience the reports were false and that “I have” explained conversations with the Labour Party leader to the committee’s disgraced former chair, Keith Vaz.
She has previously denied the peerage was offered ahead of the independent inquiry’s publication, claiming “I am not a corrupt woman and Jeremy Corbyn is not a corrupt man”.
Chakrabarti also told the event she had “a problem” with complaints by former Corbyn aide, Josh Simons, that evidence of anti-Semitism in the leader’s office had been ignored. Chakrabarti said it was her duty to protect the anonymity of inquiry participants.
In a wide ranging and candid interview with Simon Johnson of the Jewish Leadership Council, she said it was a “genuinely difficult question” whether it was right for a non-Jew to lead the inquiry.
But the peer, who is of Indian descent, said she could sympathise with receiving racist abuse: “I don’t know what it’s like to be called a yid but I do know what it’s like to called a paki.”
Chakrabarti also admitted the June launch of the inquiry had been “terrible for me, terrible for the leader and terrible for the party.”
Ruth Smeeth, the Labour MP, walked out after facing allegedly anti-Semitic comments from an audience member at the central London event.
Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire for calling Hezbollah and Hamas his ‘friends’ and his dealings with the Jewish community as a whole.
The outcome of a leadership contest between Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith are to be released later this month.