Jeremy Corbyn defends Labour racism inquiry

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Jeremy Corbyn.
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Mr Corbyn has promised that Labour will not tolerate racism

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has defended his party’s handling of allegations of racism against a councillor.

Dumfries and Galloway Councillor Jim Dempster was suspended over claims that he told officials no-one would have seen Scottish government minister Humza Yousaf “under his burka”.

Six months later, key witnesses have not been contacted by Labour.

Mr Yousaf has said he is “furious” that there has still been no action.

Mr Corbyn told BBC Scotland: “What I would make clear is that first of all as a party we don’t tolerate racism in any form, I as party leader do not tolerate racism in any form.

“It is all investigated as quickly as it can be investigated and appropriate action is taken – there’s a range of actions that can be taken by our national executive.”

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Mr Yousaf has claimed Mr Corbyn’s actions have not matched his rhetoric

Pressed on why it has taken six months to contact key witnesses, Mr Corbyn insisted the matter would be taken seriously.

He added: “Listen, the case is being dealt with and it will be dealt with because we do not tolerate racism in any form in our society.

“The issues that face us all are the need to be united and not allow racism to fester any more than we would allow the far-right to rise anywhere across this country.”

Allegations first emerged in March that Mr Dempster had made the comments in a meeting with officials from Transport Scotland.

He is said to have told them no-one would notice work by then transport minister Humza Yousaf – because no-one would have seen him under his burka.

He was suspended by the party and has apologised to Mr Yousaf, saying he was ashamed and embarrassed and could offer no defence or explanation.

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Mr Dempster said he was ashamed and embarrassed about the comments he made about Mr Yousaf

Mr Yousaf said he was frustrated by the lack of progress in Labour’s inquiry.

He said: “I wrote to Jeremy Corbyn, got a response from some assistant of his, to tell me there would be a investigation concluded by July. We’re of course now into September.

“I’ve never been asked for my witness statement, certainly I know those in Transport Scotland have told me they hadn’t been contacted by the Labour Party and other witnesses who made other accusations against Jim Dempster also tell me they’ve not been contacted.

“So this is deeply disappointing to say the least.”

Mr Yousaf added: “Let me be frank, when it come to Jeremy Corbyn and racism he is utterly duplicitous. He says one thing and warm words, and then his actions simply do not match the rhetoric whatsoever.

“Whether that is on anti-Semitism within his party which has plagued his party and continues to plague his party – or indeed whether it’s dealing with Islamophobia – I have no confidence whatsoever frankly in the Labour Party’s ability to deal with this.”

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