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Chief Rabbi warns 'soul of nation is at stake' if Labour wins general election

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

By Sam Blewett, Political Correspondent, and Laura Parnaby, PA

Jeremy Corbyn's election campaign has been struck by a significant intervention after the Chief Rabbi warned that the Labour leadership's handling of anti-Semitism was "incompatible" with British values.

Ephraim Mirvis said the "overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety" ahead of the December 12 poll and warned "the very soul of our nation is at stake".

Labour defended Mr Corbyn as a "lifelong campaigner against anti-Semitism" and disputed some of the rabbi's claims in his article for The Times, which came ahead of the party launching its race and faith manifesto.

Meanwhile, a think-tank suggested the Tories' manifesto risks creating levels of child poverty not seen for 60 years in another potentially damaging intervention.

Mr Corbyn was hailing Labour as the "party of equality and human rights" regardless of religion or background on Tuesday before unveiling the document proposing to improve human rights.

But Mr Mirvis wrote that the Labour leader's supporters have "hounded parliamentarians, members and even staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism".

"The way in which the leadership has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud - of dignity and respect for all people," he added.

"When December 12 arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake."

Labour was insisting it would "guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend and support the Jewish way of life" and combat anti-Semitism.

"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," a spokeswoman said.

She also disputed the rabbi's allegation that there are "thousands" of unresolved anti-Semitism allegations as "categorically untrue".

But the party has been dogged by accusations of failing to tackle complaints quickly enough since Mr Corbyn took charge and numerous MPs have quit the party over the issue.

Elsewhere, research from the Resolution Foundation economic think-tank said child poverty could reach a high of 34% if the Tories win the election because its manifesto fails to change existing policy.

Labour's £9 billion extra social security spending, including the scrapping of the two-child limit, would halt the rise with 550,000 fewer children living in poverty compared with Tory plans, the think-tank added.

Meanwhile, Labour figures were downplaying suggestions to Sky News from Lord Kerslake, who has advised the party on preparations for government, that removing Mr Corbyn could be on the table to win backing of opposition MPs.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly ruled out forming any pacts to prop up a minority Labour government.

On Tuesday, he is due to face sustained questioning from Andrew Neil as part of the BBC's series of interviews with the leaders vying to be the next prime minister.

That interview will come after Mr Corbyn launched the race and faith manifesto during a speech in Tottenham, north London.

With one poll suggesting the Tories' lead over Labour has narrowed, Mr Corbyn is likely to call on the public to register to vote with the deadline looming at midnight.

Support for the Conservatives fell one point to 41% while Labour was up two points to 34%, according to the ICM survey of 2,004 people online between Friday and Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Scotland and the east of England in campaign stops as he tries to keep his campaign on track.

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