Jewish and Muslim leaders attack main UK political parties ahead of election

Key Points
  • The country's Chief Rabbi claimed Jews in Britain are “gripped by anxiety" at the idea of a Labour win.
  • The Muslim Council has said the Conservative party has allowed Islamophobia to "fester in society."
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in Downing Street arriving for the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London.
Jonathan Brady - PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images

With just over two weeks until the U.K. general election, the country's chief rabbi has attacked the main opposition Labour party, claiming its leader is "unfit for high office."

In an interview with The Times newspaper on Tuesday, Ephraim Mirvis claimed that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had failed to eradicate anti-Jewish sentiment from the party and any claims to the contrary were a "mendacious fiction."

Mirvis who acts as Orthodox chief rabbi of Great Britain and Northern Ireland added that "the overwhelming majority of British Jews are 'gripped by anxiety' at the idea of a Labour holding power after the December 12 election."

Taking an explicitly political stance, the chief rabbi added that people should "vote with their consciences."

Labour has suffered a series of allegations of anti-Semitism, leading to the suspensions of high-profile figures and the desertion of Jewish lawmakers to other parties.

The intervention by Mirvis comes on the same day that Labour launched a "race and faith manifesto," which it says aims to tackle prejudice across all faiths.

Corbyn has repeatedly denied accusations of being prejudiced against Jews and said Labour has tackled anti-Semitism by expelling members. The party is still under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) with results expected next year. On Tuesday, he again stated that anti-Semitism in any form is vile and wrong and it would not be tolerated in his party.

Islamophobia 'blind spot'

Following publication of the Times article, the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement saying it agreed with the chief rabbi that people should "vote with their consciences."

But it said its main concern was that there was also a problem of anti-Islamic sentiment rife within the governing Conservative Party.

"It is abundantly clear to many Muslims that the Conservative Party tolerate Islamophobia, allow it to fester in society, and fail to put in place the measures necessary to root out this type of racism," it said before adding, "It is as if the Conservative Party has a blind spot for this type of racism."

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has submitted a complaint to EHRC, calling for an inquiry into the Conservative Party.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised debate last week that the Conservative Party had a "zero tolerance of Islamophobia."

In August last year, Johnson himself stood accused of Islamophobia after claiming that Muslim women who wear burkas "look like letter boxes."