Keir Starmer trying to ‘purge’ left wing of Labour, suggests Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has suggested Sir Keir Starmer is trying to “purge” the left wing of the Labour Party as he offered his support to Diane Abbott amid the uncertainty over her General Election campaign.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir insisted no decision had yet been taken about whether Ms Abbott – who in 1987 became the first black woman elected to Parliament – would be allowed to defend her seat after she had the Labour whip restored on Tuesday.

Ms Abbott, who had the whip suspended in April 2023 after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experience prejudice but not racism, said on Wednesday she believed she had been barred from running for Labour in her Hackney North and Stoke Newington seat.

Speaking at a rally to launch his own independent election campaign in north London on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn said he was “disturbed” by the way Ms Abbott has been treated.

Asked whether he believed Sir Keir was trying to purge the left of the Labour Party, the former leader said: “It looks like it.”

Mr Corbyn was suspended by Labour in 2020 for refusing to fully accept the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s findings that the party broke equality law when he was in charge.

Speaking at the rally for his Islington North seat, he added “I am disturbed at the way Diane’s been treated – you can see what’s happened with me. There has to be a voice for justice, for peace and socialism in our society.”

He added: “Look at the way democracy has been denied for so many people in our society.”

Frank Hester apology
Diane Abbott was first elected in 1987 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Ms Abbott has vowed to stay on as MP for her London constituency as Labour has come under pressure to clarify whether she will be allowed to stand.

Mr Corbyn added: “I’ve known Diane for years and years, obviously, she’s been a great comrade and colleague in Parliament.

“She was elected in 1987, first black woman MP and whenever I read the feed to her social media, my stomach churns with the abuse that she puts up with, the threats she’s suffered, the indignity that’s been thrown at her and she’s come through it all so strong.

“The last rally she went to – fantastic – there were thousands of people there, particularly black women who knew what it was like to suffer racism and weren’t going to let it happen to Diane.”

Mr Corbyn said that his message to Ms Abbott was: “I’ve spent my life fighting for justice, for peace and for socialism and my heart goes out to anybody else, sometimes you’re going to have to fight back for those that attack us.

“It’s not me they’re attacking, it’s not Diane they’re attacking. It’s the voices of people here.”

He said that he speaks to Ms Abbott “frequently” and that she is on “fine form”.

He added: “Whatever Diane does, I support her.”

Asked what his message was to Sir Keir regarding the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn said: “The Labour Party ought to be a broad church and any movement that tends to represent the working classes community has to be a broad inclusive church.

“You don’t achieve anything by driving people out, you achieve things by bringing people in.”