Johnson accuses Corbyn of a ‘failure of leadership’ over antisemitism
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Johnson accuses Corbyn of a ‘failure of leadership’ over antisemitism

During BBC debate the Prime Minister says the Labour leader has been 'unwilling to take a stand' against Jew-hate

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn going head to head in the BBC Election Debate in Maidstone, (Photo credit: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn going head to head in the BBC Election Debate in Maidstone, (Photo credit: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire)

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn were involved in a series of angry exchanges over racism and antisemitism in the final TV debate of the General Election campaign.

The Prime Minister accused Mr Corbyn of a “failure of leadership” in his handling of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

The Labour leader shot back that he never used racist language and that he hoped Mr Johnson regretted his past comments.

Appearing before a live BBC studio audience in Maidstone, the two leaders clashed over Brexit, the NHS and terrorism.

But the sharpest exchanges were prompted by a question about their response to the issues of Islamophobia and antisemitism.

Mr Johnson said it was “extraordinary” the Chief Rabbi had felt the need to speak out during an election campaign about his fears for his community if Mr Corbyn became prime minister.

The Labour leader insisted there was “no place” in his party for anti-Semitism, adding in an apparent reference to Mr Johnson’s past comments: “I do not ever use racist language in any form to describe anybody in this world or in our society.”

Mr Johnson replied: “Mr Corbyn I am sure is very well-intentioned but in his handling of this particular issue, his unwillingness to take a stand to stand up for Jewish people in the Labour Party, his unwillingness to protect them, to put an arm round them, is in my view a failure of leadership.”

Mr Corbyn retorted: “The failure of leadership is when you use racist remarks to describe people in different countries or in our society. I will never do that and my will never do that.

“I hope the prime minister understands the hurt that people feel when they hear remarks and articles that he has written in the past. I hope that he will regret those.”

Mr Corbyn did not specify which comments he was referring to but Mr Johnson has been widely criticised for articles he wrote referring to “piccaninnies” and likening Muslim women in burqas to letterboxes and bank robbers.

A snap YouGov poll of 1,322 viewers following the debate narrowly gave victory to Mr Johnson by 52% to 48%, although Mr Corbyn was judged the more trustworthy by a margin of 48% to 38%.

With less than a week to go to polling day on Thursday – and Labour trailing in the overall polls – the findings suggest that the debate is unlikely to prove a game-changer.

 

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