Labour, antisemitism, and Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension

Letters
·6-min read

I have known Jeremy Corbyn for nearly 60 years. He has many faults. He was a hopeless leader of my (then) party and his lacklustre campaign directly caused the disaster of Brexit.

He is a decent, honourable man and a dedicated parliamentarian. He is about as antisemitic as the chief rabbi. His suspension from the Labour party is a disgrace (Labour in turmoil as Corbyn suspended in wake of antisemitism report, 29 October).

Like many of us, he loathes Israel’s present government and its treatment of the Palestinians. In October 2009 I went to Gaza. I went as part of a European group of parliamentarians in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, a retaliatory attack on Gaza by Israel in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians.

The British contingent consisted of members of the Lords and Commons, including Jeremy Corbyn. It was led by the late Sir Gerald Kaufman, a hugely experienced and distinguished parliamentarian. He was a Jew and a supporter of Labour’s Friends of Israel group. He was also a strong, persistent and highly articulate critic of Israel’s policies.

It cannot be said often enough. Some of those who are apologists for Israel’s conduct in Palestine persistently use the false accusation of antisemitism as a weapon against their critics. It does their cause no service and will generate precisely the prejudice and hatred they purport to abhor.
Bob Marshall-Andrews QC
MP for Medway 1997-2010

• Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to accept the findings of the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission into the Labour party’s handling of antisemitism complaints shows exactly why he was such a disastrous leader. The report reveals that under his watch, the party engaged in unlawful harassment and discrimination. Delusional and stubborn, Corbyn should now apologise and accept the report’s findings.
June Purvis
Portsmouth

• It’s a pity that the Labour party leadership which suspended Jeremy Corbyn and withdrew the whip because of his reaction to the EHRC report did not properly read it before rushing to judgment. They should have taken on board the section of the report which discusses the right to free speech as protected by the European convention on human rights. Page 27 of the report says that article 10 of the convention “will protect Labour party members who … express their opinions on internal party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the party, based on their own experience”.

That is all that Jeremy Corbyn legitimately did. He should be reinstated immediately.
Jonathan Steele
London

• Your front-page article correctly reports that “The decision to suspend [Corbyn] was taken by Labour’s general secretary, David Evans, and chief whip, Nick Brown”, yet the same day John Crace remarks that “by lunchtime Starmer had been forced to withdraw the whip and suspend his predecessor from the party” and Keith Kahn-Harris’s article begins “Keir Starmer’s unexpected decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn…”

Since one of the major conclusions of the EHRC investigation is that Corbyn’s leadership team repeatedly interfered in the disciplinary procedures of the party, this error really matters. Whether you agree with the decision to suspend Corbyn or not, Evans, Brown and Starmer have acted in strict accordance with the rules.
John Rowe
Rochdale, Greater Manchester

• Non-egotists take criticism on the chin. They take responsibility, even if they don’t agree with every last detail. We see here the difference between a leader and a self-centred child crying “Not fair!” If he thought he’d done nothing wrong, Jeremy Corbyn could instead have said: “I did my best, but my best wasn’t enough. I’m sorry.” His weaknesses, and fear of leading, let down his followers before; and he is again letting down his whole party and the country. Of course Labour’s enemies exploited this disgusting failure to promptly tackle racism. But they didn’t make it all up.
Tim Bailey
Oxford

• Keir Starmer’s response to the EHRC report was authoritative and correct, and gives us all hope that our party can be a party of government. We need to understand the failings of the Corbyn era and accept the findings of the EHRC in full, and deal with these issues in a root and branch way. The way in which Corbyn reacted to the report sums up his blind spot and not understanding the hurt that this issue has caused the Jewish population.

With regard to Len McCluskey’s intervention, he should understand that his view of society was rejected wholeheartedly by the electorate; he represents only himself and should concentrate on dealing with internal issues in Unite. Unite needs a leader that represents its members, not a small leftwing faction. I say this as a lifelong member and former employee of Unite.
Neil Willoughby
Surbiton, London

• Keir Starmer has suspended Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour party. I am suspending my support for his leadership. I am an ordinary activist party member, so readers might say “So what?” However, I know that my opinion is widely shared by those who actually do the legwork. In my own small way, I campaigned for Starmer’s leadership bid, on the grounds that a broadly leftwing candidate sincerely meant to unite the party. He has betrayed my trust and hope that this can now happen.
Quentin Deakin
Tywyn, Gwynedd

• Jeremy Corbyn fails to appreciate the seriousness of the report into antisemitism in the Labour party. This is a tragedy for him and a verdict on his leadership. I am deeply saddened on both counts. The party has to move forward and stop being the story. With a disaster of a populist Tory government, a pandemic getting worse by the day, people losing their jobs and homes and the mental health of the nation at risk from lack of human contact, we all have enough very serious things to think about. Tribal politics has no place in this context.
Linda Rhead
London

• Reading Keir Starmer’s immediate, determined and honest response to the publication of the EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour party prompts me to wonder when we will see a similar investigation into and report on Islamophobia in the Conservative party and how we might see the prime minister react. As if we can’t guess.
John Rowe
Rochdale, Greater Manchester

• Current politics seems to be giving out very mixed messages. I don’t recall any report or mention of Jeremy Corbyn personally saying anything antisemitic, but I do remember Boris Johnson openly making crude anti-Muslim remarks (letterboxes and bank robbers come to mind). The former has just been suspended from the Labour party and the latter was voted in as prime minister with an 80-seat majority.
Julie Norton
Cwmllynfell, West Glamorgan