Sir Keir Starmer today announced he will not restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn as he claimed his predecessor as Labour leader had ‘undermined and set back’ the party’s work on tackling anti-Semitism.
Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour last month over his response to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which found the party had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
The Islington North MP last night had his Labour membership reinstated as his suspension from the party was lifted.
But Sir Keir said this morning he will not allow Mr Corbyn to rejoin the Parliamentary Labour Party which means he will have to continue to sit in the House of Commons as an independent MP.
The decision made by Sir Keir is likely to spark a Labour civil war, with allies of Mr Corbyn adamant he should be given the whip back.
Sir Keir said in a statement: ‘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 anti-Semitism.
‘In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review.’
Sir Keir Starmer today announced he is not restoring the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn
Mr Corbyn last night had his Labour Party membership reinstated but Sir Keir is refusing to allow his predecessor to sit in the House of Commons as a Labour MP
James Schneider, Mr Corbyn’s former director of strategic communications, this morning said the decision to reinstate the Islington North MP was the ‘right decision’
Mr Corbyn was suspended from the party last month after he responded to the EHRC report by claiming the scale of anti-Semitism in the party was ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’ by opponents and ‘much of the media’.
Yesterday he attempted to clarify his comments before a panel of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) then decided to lift his three-week suspension in a move which critics labelled an ‘absolute sham’.
Sir Keir responded to the NEC’s decision by saying it marked ‘another painful day for the Jewish community’ as he immediately faced calls not to restore the whip to Mr Corbyn.
Allies of Mr Corbyn had this morning welcomed his reinstatement to the party and said it was the ‘right decision’.
James Schneider, former director of strategic communications for Mr Corbyn when he was Labour leader, told the BBC: ‘It is a clear cut case for reinstatement because nothing that he said or wrote on the day of the EHRC report in any way was anti-Semitic or broke any party rules.
‘The process has been dramatically sped up and was dramatically sped up when Jeremy was leader and Jennie Formby was general secretary including on the urging of the Board of Deputies.
‘So there is now a fast track process with frequent panels meeting of members of the NEC who can hear cases and that seems to have been what has happened here.’
He added: ‘It is in the party’s interests, it is in the interests of natural justice if the party can hear the case through the existing processes to do so and the right decision was found because Jeremy Corbyn didn’t say anything that is either factually or morally wrong and was not anti-Semitic and did not breach any party rules.
‘So it is right that he was reinstated and if he wasn’t and the case carried on there could have been other implications.’
Mr Schneider had also claimed the decision to reinstate Mr Corbyn meant he had ‘automatically’ had the whip restored and it would ‘be a decision for the leadership to now withdraw the whip’.
He said: ‘This process has been completed. The membership is reinstated. He is a Labour member and he is a Labour MP.’
But senior Labour sources had insisted that was not the case and it was a decision for party leader Sir Keir and chief whip Nick Brown.
The decision to lift Mr Corbyn’s suspension was labelled an ‘absolute sham’ by Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who said it showed the Labour Party has ‘not learned anything at all’.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the former leader’s case has ‘clearly been rushed through and judged by a politicised panel stuffed with his own supporters’.
Ms van der Zyl added: ‘It’s clearly a politicisation of the process, because in the morning Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement, which he said was an apology, and I say should be confined to the dustbin of history, and he hoped that the matter would be resolved as quickly as possible, and lo and behold, by that very evening, he was reinstated into the party through his political friends.
‘This shows the political process that’s being used by his supporters and this goes against everything that is in the EHRC report.
Mr Corbyn welcomed the decision to lift his suspension as he tweeted he was ‘pleased to be reinstated’ to the party he led from 2015 to 2020
Sir Keir responded to the NEC’s decision to reinstate his predecessor by saying it marked ‘another painful day for the Jewish community’
The charges against Labour in damning 130-page EHRC report
- Labour breached the Equality Act 2010 by committing ‘unlawful harassment’ in two of the complaints investigated. They included ‘using antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of antisemitism were fake or smears’.
- One of the cases involved Ken Livingstone, who in 2016 defended MP Naz Shah over claims of anti-Semitism by claiming there was a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to undermine and disrupt Mr Corbyn’s leadership. He later resigned from the Labour Party after being suspended.
- A further 18 cases were ‘borderline’, involving local councillors, local election candidates and Constituency Labour Party (CLP) officials.
- Analysis of 70 anti-Semitism complaint files found 23 incidences of ‘political interference’ by Mr Corbyn’s office and others. This included ‘clear examples of interference at various stages throughout the complaint handling process, including in decisions on whether to investigate and whether to suspend’ party members.
- The party’s complaints process was ‘inconsistent, poor, and lacking in transparency’.
- In cases where a complaint of anti-Semitism was upheld, it was ‘difficult to draw conclusions on whether the sanctions applied were fair and consistent’.
- Recommendations made by the watchdog include commissioning an independent process to handle anti-Semitism complaints and acknowledging the effect political interference has had and implementing clear rules to stop it happening again.
‘I hope this morning that Keir Starmer will have reflected on what has happened yesterday and make it clear that he is refusing to restore the whip.’
Mr Corbyn will continue to sit as an independent MP in the House of Commons unless Sir Keir formally restores the whip to him.
The NEC’s decision sparked a fierce backlash from Labour MPs and Jewish societies, and prompted reports that former minister Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, could quit the party.
She said on Tuesday evening that she could not ‘comprehend’ why it was acceptable for Mr Corbyn to ‘be a Labour MP if he thinks anti-Semitism is exaggerated and a political attack’.
Dame Margaret tweeted: ‘This is a broken outcome from a broken system. A factional, opaque and dysfunctional complaints process could never reach a fair conclusion. This is exactly why the EHRC instructed Labour to setup an independent process!’
Dame Louise Ellman, the Jewish former Labour MP who quit the party over its handling of anti-Semitism last year, said Sir Keir should ‘refuse to restore the whip’ to Mr Corbyn.
‘That way they could show that they are determined – as they have said they are – to rid the party of this dreadful stain,’ she told BBC Two’s Newsnight.
Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, claimed Mr Corbyn’s suspension was ‘nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow’ of the EHRC report.
The Jewish Labour Movement said it appeared the former party leader’s case had been ‘expedited’ by a ‘factionally aligned political committee’.
However, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, said the former leader’s readmission was the ‘correct, fair and unifying decision’.
Jewish Voice for Labour welcomed the lifting of the suspension, urging the party to apologise to Mr Corbyn for the ‘high handed and public nature of his suspension and the consequent distress he has inevitably suffered’.
Sir Keir tweeted on Tuesday evening: ‘I know that this has been another painful day for the Jewish community and those Labour members who have fought so hard to tackle antisemitism. I know the hurt that has been caused and the trauma people have felt.
‘Jeremy Corbyn’s statement in response to the EHRC report was wrong and completely distracted from a report that identified unlawful conduct in our tackling of racism within the Labour Party. This should shame us all.
‘I will not allow a focus on one individual to prevent us from doing the vital work of tackling anti-Semitism. When I stood as leader of the Labour Party, I was clear that my first priority would be to root out antisemitism. It still is.
‘I know we have a long way to go, but I am absolutely resolute in my determination to make the Labour Party a safe place for Jewish people. I stand by the commitments I made last month to accept the findings and the recommendations of the EHRC’s report in full.
‘That must mean establishing an independent complaints process as soon as possible in the New Year. This is my commitment and my promise to our party, the Jewish community and the British people.’
His comments came shortly after Mr Corbyn tweeted: ‘I am pleased to have been reinstated in the Labour Party and would like to thank party members, trade unionists and all who have offered solidarity.
Mr Corbyn yesterday outlined his thoughts on his suspension ahead of the meeting of the NEC disputes committee
‘Our movement must now come together to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.’
Mr Corbyn claimed last month that while ‘one anti-Semite is one too many’ the ‘scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media’.
He was suspended after Sir Keir said people who believed it was ‘exaggerated, or a factional attack’ were ‘part of the problem’ and ‘should be nowhere near the Labour Party either’.
Mr Corbyn acknowledged ahead of a meeting of the NEC disputes committee on Tuesday that concerns around anti-Semitism in Labour were not ‘exaggerated’.
He revealed he had given a statement to the party in an attempt to ‘clear up any confusion’ over his initial response and a broadcast interview given in the wake of the report.