Head of UK opposition Party Starmer bars Jeremy Corbyn from sitting as MP

0
46

Jeremy Corbyn will be barred from sitting as a Labour MP, Sir Keir Starmer has announced, despite the controversial decision to readmit him to the party.

Starmer’s decision followed warnings of resignations if the whip was restored less than three weeks after Corbyn’s suspension over his response to an Equality and Human Rights Commission report on antisemitism in the party under his leadership.

It risks a civil war with the former leader’s supporters, who demanded his readmission to the parliamentary grouping after his party membership suspension was lifted on Tuesday.

The head of the Corbyn-backing Momentum movement said the decision amounted to “political interference” by the leadership in the party’s internal disciplinary processes.

READ ALSO: UK Lockdown: Opposition leader Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of ‘abandoning science’

But the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the move as “appropriate”, adding: “Zero tolerance must mean precisely that, whether for antisemites or their apologists.”

And senior MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who clashed with Corbyn over antisemitism, said it was “the right decision”, revealing that his reinstatement as a member had made her question her own place in the party.

In a statement, Sir Keir said that his predecessor had “undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle antisemitism” with his response to the EHRC report.

Tuesday’s decision by the disputes panel of Labour’s National Executive Committee had shown once again that the party’s disciplinary processes do not enjoy the confidence of the Jewish community, he said.

But he appeared to leave the door open for an eventual return to the parliamentary party, saying that he would keep the issue “under review”. Any future decision is likely to take place under a new independent disciplinary process which Starmer has vowed to introduce in the new year.

Mr Corbyn was suspended from the party and had the whip withdrawn on 29 October after he refused to accept all the findings of the EHRC report, claiming the scale of Labour antisemitism under his leadership had been “dramatically overstated” by political opponents.

But his party membership was restored less than three weeks later, hours after he released a statement in which he accepted that concerns about antisemitism were neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated.’ 

In a statement, Sir Keir said: “Since I was elected Labour leader, I have made it my mission to root out antisemitism from the Labour Party.

“I know that I will be judged on my actions, not my words.

“The disciplinary process does not have the confidence of the Jewish community. That became clear once again yesterday.

“It is the task of my leadership to fix what I have inherited. That is what I am resolute in doing and I have asked for an independent process to be established as soon as possible.

“I’m the leader of the Labour Party, but I’m also the leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC  report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle antisemitism.

“In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review.”

The decision sparked fury among Corbyn supporters. 

Momentum founder Jon Lansman said: “The decision not to restore the whip to Corbyn just announced has driven a coach and horses through the party’s disciplinary process, making it subservient to the parliamentary party and embedding ‘political interference’.”

The group’s co-chair Andrew Scattergood said that the recent NEC elections proved there was a “clear socialist majority” within Labour which was ready to fight for a socialist party.

Accusing Starmer of “making it up as he goes along,” Mr Scattergood said: “This is not only farcical and incompetent, it is a blatant political attack on the left at a time when Labour should be united in taking on the Tories.

“They can’t remove the whip from our movement.”  

And former Corbyn spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin said: “The leadership is prolonging a fight it should be de-escalating after yesterday. Just back down with grace, learn from it and move on.”

But Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl welcomed the decision to withhold the whip.

“Despite the EHRC’s finding that the party had acted unlawfully under his watch, Jeremy Corbyn’s initial reaction to the report was dismissive and he has been shameless and remorseless for what he put the Jewish community through,” said Ms van der Zyl.

“Meanwhile, Labour’s disciplinary process is clearly still not fit for purpose.

“Keir Starmer has now taken the appropriate leadership decision not to restore the whip. We continue to say that ‘zero tolerance’ must mean precisely that, whether for antisemites or their apologists.”

Dame Margaret said: “As Corbyn has refused to himself accept the findings of the EHRC report, refused to apologise for his actions and refused to take any responsibility, withholding the whip is the right decision.

“Yesterday has shown once again just how broken and unjust the existing complaints system is. It has caused untold hurt and anguish across the Jewish community, undermined progress made and made me question my own place in the party.”

Fiona Sharpe, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said the decision to withhold the whip “must not be used to obscure the disgraceful events of the last 24 hours or the calamity of institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party”.

Ms Sharpe said: “Keir Starmer’s authority has been completely undermined by the lifting of Mr Corbyn’s suspension yesterday. The Jewish community has again been ignored and failed.

“Until an independent complaints process is introduced, and all historical cases of antisemitism from 2015 onwards are reviewed in full, the Labour Party will not be a safe space for British Jews.”