The Labour Party’s Jewish affiliate has criticised comments made by Jeremy Corbyn about the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to the Middle East Eye.
Corbyn, whose unsuccessful bid to become Prime Minister in December 2019 was in part overshadowed by the row over alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party, sat down with the news outlet in what is thought to be his first major interview since stepping down as leader in April.
The website teased material on Monday from its full interview with Jeremy Corbyn ahead of its release on Tuesday.
During the interview, Corbyn appeared to call into question the impartiality of the equality watchdog currently investigating allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.
The EHRC launched its formal investigation last May to determine whether the party had unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised Jews.
“I think it’s quite significant that the Conservative government has underfunded the Equality and Human Rights Commission… and for some reason, which I don’t fully understand… decided to take away its independent status and make it part of the government machine,” he reportedly told the outlet.
When approached for comment by Jewish News, a spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “We are an independent regulator and take our impartiality very seriously.”
A statement from the Jewish Labour Movement, meanwhile, read: “We have always maintained that a fully independent organisation such as the EHRC, with statutory powers to compel witness testimony and obtain documents, was the only way to reach the truth of the scale of Labour’s antisemitism problems.
“With the EHRC’s final judgement imminent, it’s unsurprising that the Leader who oversaw the Labour Party’s moral descent into a culture of causal anti-Jewish racism is scared about what it might find.”
During the interview, Corbyn also denied suggestions he allowed anti-Jewish racism to flourish in the party, characterising the accusation as “wrong and extremely unfair”
“They attacked me all the time on this. I think it is wrong, because I think I’m the one that actually introduced a process for dealing with it; there has to be an examination of the way in which that process operated,” he said.
Ian Austin, Chairman of Mainstream, the Campaign Against Extremism said: “Labour’s leadership face a huge challenge in ridding the party of the toxic culture created under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. “Over the last five years the party was poisoned by racism, Jewish people faced appalling abuse and the leadership completely failed to deal with it, but as usual, when it comes to the scandal of antisemitism in the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn acts as if he thinks he is the victim. “What action will Labour take about this?”