Jeremy Corbyn was hit by a series of blows today after Labour candidates were exposed for allegedly using racist, sexist and misogynistic language.
Three would-be MPs dropped out of the election race in 24 hours and a fourth was under pressure to quit today.
They included Haringey councillor Gideon Bull who was accused of referring to a Jewish councillor as “Shylock” during a private meeting in July.
Mr Bull, who was standing in Clacton, Essex, apologised for the remark, saying he did not aim it at her personally and did not realise the moneylender in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant Of Venice was Jewish.
Faced with a row over his comments, he dropped out of the general election race this morning.
He said it was a “genuine accident” and apologised for the “mistake”, adding: “I grew up in a working class area in Ilford where this was a common saying, but I didn’t know it was offensive.”
A Labour candidate who shared “disgusting and sexist” comments about Baroness Mone was also facing calls to quit. Ian Byrne, who is running in the safe seat of Liverpool West Derby, shared comments on Facebook about the peer and founder of underwear brand Ultimo. They included a post which called on people to “hit the c*** where it hurts”.
In another, suggesting former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey was at risk of losing her seat, Mr Byrne called her a “bastard ... and soon to be gone”.
Mr Byrne was pictured was on stage with Mr Corbyn at a rally in Manchester last night. The Labour leader told the audience: “I am very proud of the work done by all my colleagues, some of whom are behind me here today.”
Liz Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities, called on Mr Byrne to step down immediately, adding: “These comments from a man who is set to become a Labour MP are disgusting and sexist.”
Mr Byrne said the offending words on the Facebook meme were from the original post, adding: “This was not my language and I sincerely apologise.” He said he was now a “very different person”.
Mr Byrne was backed in the race by key leadership figures John McDonnell and Laura Pidcock and the local Left-wing Momentum campaign group.
The Mail on Sunday previously revealed he wrote “it can only be a matter of time before Boris Johnson’s mum comes forward and tells us that she was raped by Jimmy Savile in 1963”. Mr Byrne apologised for the comment and another about the Paralympic Games which he described as like “a night out in Salford”.
Responding to the offensive comments, Lady Mone told LBC radio: “Politicians on all sides of the aisle need to raise the tone of debate.”
Two Scottish Labour candidates have also stepped down over offensive comments made online.
Kate Ramsden said Israel is like an “abused child” who then goes on to commit abuse. Frances Hoole posted a meme with the slogan “bang and the Terf is gone”. Terf, meaning trans-exclusionary radical feminist, is considered an insulting term for those who are campaigning for sex-based rights.
Yesterday former Labour MPs John Woodcock and Ian Austin urged the public not to vote for the party, with Mr Austin branding the Labour leader “unfit to be Prime Minister”.
Referring to Ms Ramsden, Ms Hoole and Mr Bull, a Labour source said: “We’ve conducted due diligence checks and we’ve acted swiftly and robustly. They are not Labour candidates in the election and new candidates will be selected.”
A Conservative Party candidate stood down last night following criticism of comments he had made in 2014 when he said women should “keep their knickers on” to avoid rape. Former BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Nick Conrad was selected to stand for Broadland in the county but said media attention was becoming a “distraction”.