Jeremy Corbyn defended his description of Palestinian terror group Hamas as ‘friends’ during a general election TV grilling on Monday.

The Labour leader insisted he was using “inclusive language” to promote a “two-state solution”, when he made the remarks during a parliamentary meeting in 2009.

During the live TV interview, hosted by Faisal Islam and Jeremy Paxman, Corbyn was probed on linked to the IRA and Hamas. He defended his description of the latter as “friends”, saying the way in which he used it “was inclusive language at a meeting in which I was promoting the idea of a two-state solution, in which I was promoting the need for dialogue between Israel and all aspects of Palestine including Fatah as well as Hamas”.

This comes in the wake of last week’s Manchester bombing, where Corbyn attempted to draw a link between British involvement in military interventions overseas and terrorism at home, which led to Tory accusations that he was making excuses for extremists

 

Challenged over whether he would “soften” the UK’s foreign policy, Mr Corbyn said: “It’s not about softening our foreign policy. It’s about absolutely condemning what happened in Manchester.”

“My point was absolute condemnation” he added. “Do not allow this to become an attack on our multicultural society or the wonderful faith of Islam. This was a perversion of Islam, what was done in Manchester.”

On the IRA, the Labour leader was challenged by an audience member who claimed he had “openly supported the IRA in the past” by attending a commemoration for eight IRA members killed by the SAS in Loughgall.

Corbyn said there was a period of silence for “everyone who died in Northern Ireland” at the 1987 event, but when pressed further, he added that: “The contribution I made to that meeting was to call for a peace and dialogue process in Northern Ireland.

Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May were questioned separately by studio audiences and interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, after the Prime Minister refused to go head-to-head with other party leaders in a debate.