01/06/2020 17:09 BST

Equalities Watchdog Defends Impartiality After Jeremy Corbyn Questions Anti-Semitism Investigation

Former Labour leader said Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is “part of the government machine”.

Hollie Adams - PA Images via Getty Images

The equalities watchdog has said it takes its independence “very seriously” after Jeremy Corbyn appeared to question the impartiality of its investigation of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

In an interview with Middle East Eye on Monday, Corbyn said the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was “part of the government machine”.

The former Labour leader added accusations he had tolerated anti-Semitism in the party were “wrong and extremely unfair”.

The EHRC is conducting an inquiry into accusations the party discriminated against Jewish people.

Asked if he believed the EHRC’s inquiry would be influenced by what he saw as its lack of independence, Corbyn said: “Let’s see what happens.”

He added: “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.”

Labour MP Margaret Hodge said on Twitter that Corbyn’s comments were “a ridiculous & dangerous conspiracy theory”.

The EHRC is a non-departmental public body. A spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We are an independent regulator and take our impartiality very seriously.”

Corbyn’s four-and-a-half years as Labour leader were dogged by complaints of racism against Jews by some party members.

During the 2019 general election campaign, Britain’s chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis suggested Corbyn’s failure to tackle the issue made him unfit for high office.

After taking over as leader in April, Keir Starmer apologised to the Jewish community for anti-Semitism in the party and promised to “tear out this poison by its roots”.

Starmer has also set up an inquiry into a leaked internal report on how the party handled the accusations.

The document found “no evidence” of anti-Semitism being handled differently from other complaints and that “factional opposition” towards Corbyn hindered efforts to tackle the crisis.

The leak of the document reignited Labour’s bitter civil war between left-wing supporters of Corbyn and the party’s centrists.

Allies of Corbyn said the document showed that elements of the party undermined his leadership.

In the interview to be broadcast on Tuesday, Corbyn said the culture in the Labour HQ was “not a healthy one” and had been “almost self-perpetuating bureaucracy”.