LONDON—Just six months after he stepped down as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has been kicked out of the party as part of a lingering anti-Semitism crisis that sullied much of his leadership.
It is the first time a former leader has been removed from the party since 1931, as Keir Starmer seeks to reshape the party after four years of Corbyn’s radical left-wing leadership and two successive election defeats.
A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published Thursday ruled that Labour had breached equality laws under the leadership of Corbyn, who has been accused of failing to stamp out anti-Jewish rhetoric within the left-wing, anti-Israel fringes of the party.
The report by the EHRC, which has previously only been moved to investigate racism within the far-right British National Party, found that the system for dealing with incidents of anti-Semitism was inadequate under Corbyn. “It is hard not to conclude that anti-Semitism within the Labour party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so,” it said.
This stinging personal attack on Corbyn was not enough to see Corbyn thrown out of the party, but his response on Thursday morning triggered decisive action from his successor Starmer.
Corbyn wrote an equivocating Facebook post in which he accepted that anti-Semitism was unacceptable, but caused anger by making the incendiary claim that its prevalence within the Labour Party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons.”
Minutes after a press conference on how he would resolve the anti-Semitism issue within the party, Starmer ordered Corbyn to retract his statement. The former leader refused to do so and was formally suspended from the party.
Although he will remain a member of Parliament, Corbyn will not represent the Labour party unless he’s cleared of wrongdoing in an investigation into his conduct, which is already underway.
In a furious tweeted response to his suspension, Corbyn wrote, “I will strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me. I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an antisemitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong. I will continue to support a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.”
Corbyn is one of Labour’s longest-serving lawmakers, having been a member of Parliament since 1983. He won a shock victory in 2015 to become Labour’s leader but announced his resignation last December after leading the party to successive general-election defeats.
Although his election failures left him widely discredited in Britain’s political establishment, Corbyn remains a heroic figure for the intensely loyal and vocal left-wing of the Labour party, and his suspension is likely to ignite a civil war among the party’s factions.