LEN McCluskey has claimed that opponents of Jeremy Corbyn "used the anti-Semitism issue" that has engulfed Labour to undermine his leadership.

The General Secretary of Unite, Labour’s biggest donor, said he believed such actions were "quite despicable", after also acknowledging Labour "never handled the anti-Semitism issue correctly".

Mr McCluskey also said it was "unfair" to describe Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey as "continuity Corbyn", arguing she backed the "radical nature" of the alternative offered by the party but would have different priorities to Mr Corbyn.

Unite has supported Ms Long-Bailey for the leadership as well as Richard Burgon, the Justice Secretary, for the deputy’s role.

Appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, the union chief acknowledged Labour's response to anti-Semitism allegations could have been better.

But he also said: "I'm absolutely convinced that there were those individuals who opposed Jeremy Corbyn's election right from the beginning, used the anti-Semitism issue - which is quite despicable that they did this on such an important subject - to undermine Corbyn, there's no doubt about that."

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Comments from Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore were quoted at Mr McCluskey, including how she did not want a "continuity Corbyn candidate".

Mr McCluskey responded by saying: "When Julie says she doesn't want a continuity Corbyn candidate, she didn't want Corbyn as a candidate and there's lots of these leaders who are anti-Corbyn so, of course, they'll try to stick Rebecca with the same tags and that's deeply unfair of them."

He described the Shadow Business Secretary as "completely different" from Mr Corbyn.

When told she agreed with all of Mr Corbyn's policies, Mr McCluskey replied: "I don't know she agrees with all his policies; she agrees with the radical nature of the alternative that Labour offers the electorate but she'll have her different views about what her priorities are."

Earlier, Mr McCluskey told Sky News's Sophy Ridge On Sunday that Labour's election defeat was "virtually, solely down to Brexit" and defended the party's policies on other matters.

He explained: "Two years ago Jeremy Corbyn was loved. What happened in the last two years? Brexit, and Labour's inability to effectively stay with their 2017 manifesto position of respecting the 2016 referendum and arguing to take Labour and the country out of Europe on a deal that protects jobs and investment.

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"That got lost in the two years and that affected how people perceived Jeremy as a leader and we paid the consequences for that."

Asked if Mr Burgon and Dawn Butler should be ruled out of the deputy leadership contest if they did not sign up to the Board of Deputies' 10 pledges to "end the anti-Semitism crisis", Mr McCluskey replied: "Both Dawn and Richard have made it clear that they believe there's a need for more debate and discussion about a couple of the points that are in the Board of Deputies' pledges; most of them are fine but a couple of them need further consideration."

He added: "For people to call for them to be kicked out of the race is utter nonsense."