General Election 2019 briefing: Chief Rabbi attacks Labour’s record on anti-semitism and Conservative candidate has ‘Thick of It’ moment

Britain’s Chief Rabbi criticises Corbyn, the BBC apologises for “misleading” clip of Johnson, and a Tory candidate is caught out by a microphone - all this and more in today’s election briefing.

Britain’s Chief Rabbi speaks out against Labour

In an article published in the Times today (26 Nov), Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote that “a new poison - sanctioned from the very top - has taken root” in the Labour party.

The rare political intervention comes as Labour prepare to launch their “race and faith manifesto”, which outlines the party’s commitment to BAME communities.

In his article, Mirvis urged the public to “vote with their conscience” in the upcoming election, and claimed Labour was lying about having investigated all complaints of antisemitism in its membership, saying there were at least 130 outstanding cases.

In response, a Labour party spokesman said: “The 130 figure is inaccurate and it is categorically untrue to suggest there are thousands of outstanding cases.

"We are taking robust action to root out anti-Semitism in the party, with swift suspensions, processes for rapid expulsions and an education programme for members."

"Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong campaigner against anti-Semitism and has made absolutely clear it has no place in our party and society and that no one who engages in it does so in his name,” they added.

"A Labour government will guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend and support the Jewish way of life, and combat rising anti-Semitism in our country and across Europe.

"Our race and faith manifesto, launched today, sets out our policies to achieve this."

The Chief Rabbi’s intervention in the general election is without precedent. I find it heartbreaking, as a Jew, that the rabbi who by convention is seen as the figurehead of the Jewish community, feels compelled to write this about Labour and its leader. I am not...

— Robert Peston (@Peston) November 25, 2019

This morning Lord Dubs, a former MP and Labour peer, told Radio Four’s Today Programme that the Mirvis’ article “had gone a bit far”.

Dubs, who is of Jewish descent, said that he thought Jeremy Corbyn was personally hurt by the accusations, and added that he did not believe the Labour leader was anti-semitic.

The Chief Rabbi’s comments are the latest in a string of election interventions by influential figures. Yesterday, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said that while he would vote for Labour on December 12, he did not want to see the party win a majority at Westminster.

Speaking at a Reuters Newsmaker event, Blair weighed in on the election, claiming that the two main parties were “peddling two sets of fantasies; and both, as majority Governments, pose a risk it would be unwise for the country to take”.

On the same day, Lord Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy Prime Minister, told the public not to support Boris Johnson. The 86 year old said Johnson was offering voters a “grand delusion”, and urged them to support the Liberal Democrats instead.

Quote of the Day:

“This is more Thick of It than the actual Thick of It” - Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent at the Financial Times.

Pickard was reacting to a video of Lee Anderson, the Conservative candidate for Ashfield, being caught on camera setting up a fake door-knock to impress reporter Michael Crick.

this is more Thick Of It than the actual Thick Of It

— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) November 25, 2019

In the video, which has been viewed more than 2 million times on Twitter, Crick explains how the crew unwittingly recorded Anderson as he called a friend to help stage a supposedly spontaneous door-knock.

“Make out that you know who I am,” Anderson can be heard telling someone in hushed tones, adding: “Make out that you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?”

Anderson, who was being profiled by Crick for MailPlus, ended the phone conversation, saying: “I’ll see you in a minute.”

Later, he was filmed knocking on the friend’s door and pretending to introduce himself in front of Crick’s camera crew.

Anderson, a local councillor before his run for Westminster, made headlines last week after proposing that anti-social tenants should be made to live in tents in fields, and be forced to pick vegetables.

Read the full story here.

Deadline day

Today is the deadline for people to register to vote before the December 12 election.

While more than 45 million Brits are eligible to vote, huge numbers of young people remain unregistered, according to the Electoral Commission.

Before the election was called at the start of the month, just 69 per cent of all 18-19 year olds were on the electoral register - compared with 94 per cent of people aged over 65.

But since then, an estimated 1.5 million under 34s have registered to vote - including more than 300,000 on Friday alone - and the numbers are still rising.

Read the full story here.

Remember, if you have not yet registered to vote and would like to, you have until 11:59pm tonight to do so.

You can do it online here - all you will need is your name, address, and your National Insurance Number.

No laughing matter

The BBC has acknowledged that it made a mistake by editing footage of Boris Johnson answering a question on the Question Time Leaders’ debate special.

During the live Q&A with the audience on Friday night, the Prime Minister was asked: “How important is it for someone in your position of power to always tell the truth?”

The question was met with laughter from the audience and a round of applause, before Johnson replied: “I think it is absolutely vital.”

But in an edited version of the clip shown on a BBC News bulletin the following afternoon, the laughter had been removed - prompting claims of bias.

The BBC press team initially tweeted that the clip had been cut down for “timing reasons” and insisted that the broadcaster had “fully covered” the Question Time special across its outlets.

But the broadcaster has since backtracked, saying the edit was “a mistake on our part.” In a statement issued yesterday, the BBC admitted that the edited clip did not “reflect the full reaction" to Johnson’s answer.

But, they insisted, the clip had been shortened “to edit out a repetitious phrase” made by the Prime Minister in his reply, and that there had been no intention to mislead viewers.

72 year old Labour canvasser brutally attacked

The elderly activist was left with cracked ribs after reportedly being thrown over a car bonnet while campaigning in Rotherham on Sunday afternoon. Police have confirmed that a 51 year old man was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and remains in custody.

Sarah Grant, chair of Rotherham constituency Labour Party, tweeted on Sunday evening: “My 72 year old comrade, who has a walking stick, was assaulted today door knocking in Hellaby in the Rother Valley constituency.

Read the full story here.

Independent Scotland could rejoin EU ‘relatively quickly’

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made the claim in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil on Monday evening, but did not give a specific timeframe.

She also refused to be drawn on questions concerning the continued use of Pounds Sterling in Scotland after independence - and whether it posed a threat to the nation’s hopes of rejoining the EU.

Earlier in the broadcast Sturgeon told Neil that while “a Jeremy Corbyn-led government wouldn’t be my first choice,” she would not rule out working with the Labour leader in the event of a hung parliament.

“Any party that is looking to the SNP for support has to be prepared to respect the right of the people of Scotland to choose their own future,” she said, including, “if the Scottish parliament so chooses, to have a second independence referendum.”

Read the full story here.

Hot Take: The Conservatives should be hoping that their poll lead shrinks

“In the race to turn out your vote, the last thing you want is for your supporters to relax. If they decide you’ll win comfortably without them bothering to traipse down to the polling station, or that their vote can safely be used to register a protest with the Brexit Party, then that could do real damage.

“The flipside of that effect is if the numbers panic the anti-Tory vote into turning out. In 1992, the expectation that Labour was about to take power, and the fear that provoked among “quiet Tories”, was widely credited with helping John Major to secure his surprise victory. Momentum is already using messages about the risk of a big Tory majority to try to motivate its support base.”