Former leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been suspended by the party following comments he made on a damning report on the pervasive problem of antisemitism within the party. He has vowed to challenge the suspension. The suspension has the potential to ignite a civil war within the Labour Party with allies of Jeremy Corbyn rushing to his defence.
The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) claimed that the Labour Party broke the law in three areas while dealing with complaints of antisemitism. The three areas included political interference in antisemitism complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints and harassment of those who complained.
The EHRC has served an unlawful act notice to the Labour Party. The Commission can recommend any actions to avoid the actions from being repeated in the future. The report said that the Commission had found 23 instances of political interference by the office of Jeremy Corbyn in the 70 cases that it looked into.
Jeremy Corbyn responded by saying, “I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should” but added “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.” His response was deemed to be serious enough to attract a suspension from the party. The former Labour leader was surprised when he was told by a TV crew that he had been suspended vowing later to “strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me”.
Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer said he had not directed Corbyn’s suspension but the decision was taken by the party. He said it was “appropriate action” that “I fully support” and added, “I made it very clear… the Labour Party will not tolerate antisemitism or the denial of antisemitism.” Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a Corbyn ally, urged party members to “stay calm” and “all call upon the leadership to lift this suspension”.
Diane Abbott, former shadow home secretary, said, “I oppose the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party and will work for his reinstatement.” Len McCluskey, the head of the Unite union, labelled it “an act of grave injustice which, if not reversed, will create chaos within the party and in doing so compromise Labour’s chances of a general election victory.” He warned, “A split party will be doomed to defeat.”
The EHRC’s lead investigator, Alasdair Henderson, however, said that the buck stops with Jeremy Corbyn. “As the leader of the party at the time, and given the extent of the failings we found in the political interference within the leader of the opposition’s office, Jeremy Corbyn is ultimately accountable and responsible for what happened at that time,” Henderson said.
The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), stated that the blame “lies firmly with those who held positions of leadership – those who possessed both power and influence to prevent the growth of anti-Jewish racism”. The JLM was one of the groups that initially referred the party to the EHRC. The chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAM), another such party, Gideon Falter, said, “The EHRC’s report utterly vindicates Britain’s Jews, who were accused of lying and exaggerating, acting as agents of another country and using their religion to ‘smear’ the Labour party.”