Jeremy Corbyn’s days of influencing Labour are over, says Sir Keir Starmer

Jeremy Corbyn’s days of influencing Labour are over, says Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has said Jeremy Corbyn’s days of influencing Labour are “over” after the former leader was expelled from the party as he announced he is standing as an Independent candidate in the General Election.

The Labour leader, who once served in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, hit back at his predecessor after being accused of undermining democracy through the selection process for the Islington North constituency.

Veteran MP Mr Corbyn was blocked from standing for his own party but will seek re-election in the seat he has represented for 40 years.

Asked for his response to suggestions that he was “cherry-picking” candidates including Praful Nargund, who will stand for Labour in Islington North, Sir Keir told broadcasters: “Jeremy Corbyn’s days of influencing Labour Party policy are well and truly over. Jeremy Corbyn’s decision is his decision. What I’m intent on doing is putting first class Labour candidates in Islington North, which we have now done.”

Sir Keir defended his decision to ban Mr Corbyn from standing for Labour as part of his efforts to “tear antisemitism out of our party by the roots”.

The MP has been sitting as an Independent since 2020 after refusing to fully accept the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s findings that the party broke equality law when he was in charge.

He said allegations of antisemitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

Shortly after he announced his intention to stand, a source told the PA news agency that he had been informed he is no longer a Labour Party member.

Mr Corbyn vowed to be “an independent voice for equality, democracy and peace”.

His candidacy will cause a headache for the Labour leader just as he is kicking off his campaign to replace Rishi Sunak in Number 10.

Campaign group Momentum, which strongly aligns itself with Mr Corbyn’s politics, accused Sir Keir of treating the people of Islington “with contempt” by blocking the former Labour leader and “driving out the socialist politics he represented, in favour of elite interests”.

Jewish Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge reacted bluntly to his decision, saying she thought he abused the opportunities afforded to him by the Labour Party when he became leader.

Mr Corbyn told his local Islington Tribune newspaper that he would fight to retain a seat he has represented for 40 years, adding: “We have to stand up and defend our rights.”

He appealed to lifelong Labour voters, saying he was “here to represent the people of Islington North on exactly the same principles that I’ve stood by my whole life: social justice, human rights and peace”.

General Election 2019
Sir Keir Starmer served as shadow Brexit secretary under Jeremy Corbyn (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Corbyn went on to say that “these principles are needed now more than ever before”, vowing to defend “a genuine alternative to the corrupt years of this Tory Government”. This would include rent controls, public ownership of energy and water, the abolition of the two-child benefits cap, a Green New Deal, and an ethical foreign policy based on peace and human rights.

He added: “When I was first elected, I made a promise to stand by my constituents no matter what. In Islington North, we keep our promises.”

Mr Corbyn, who led Labour from 2015 to 2020, has been sitting as an Independent MP for Islington North since 2020 when he had the Labour whip suspended.

The current leader has sought to distance himself from his predecessor’s leadership, with his mantra of running “a changed Labour Party” and readiness to suspend MPs if they step out of line with his “zero-tolerance” policy on antisemitism.

Momentum chairwoman Kate Dove said: “He (Mr Corbyn) wanted to run again as the Labour candidate and the local party backed him too.

“But Starmer and his Westminster clique again denied local people the chance to choose their own candidate and blocked Jeremy. Starmer has treated the people of Islington with contempt, setting the stage for a divisive and distracting election campaign.”

She added that Sir Keir’s “attacks on Jeremy were never just about one man – they were about driving out the socialist politics he represented, in favour of elite interests”.

But the Campaign Against Antisemitism welcomed Mr Corbyn’s expulsion from Labour, with a spokesperson saying: “Good riddance.

“The man who made the Jewish community feel so unwelcome in Labour has finally been told that he is unwelcome in the Party he once led.”

Labour on Friday afternoon announced local campaigner and Islington councillor, Mr Nargund, as its candidate to run against Mr Corbyn in Islington North.

Mr Nargund said: “It’s an honour to have been chosen as Labour’s candidate for Islington North and I look forward to the campaign ahead. I promise to be a truly local MP, that represents all families and businesses that call this special place their home.”

Mr Nargund could face an uphill battle, as Mr Corbyn gained a majority of 26,188 in the seat at the 2019 election when running as a Labour candidate.

Meanwhile, another former Labour MP, Claudia Webbe, announced she will battle again for her Leicester East seat as an Independent candidate.

Ms Webbe was expelled from the Labour Party in 2021 after being convicted of harassing a love rival.