Sir Keir Starmer urged not to restore Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn

By David Hughes and Catherine Wylie, PA
·5-min read

Sir Keir Starmer has been urged to withhold the Labour whip from Jeremy Corbyn after a disciplinary panel lifted the former leader’s suspension from the party.

Mr Corbyn was reinstated as a member three weeks after being suspended in the aftermath of the damning Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into anti-Semitism.

Sir Keir has yet to decide whether to restore the whip but said the move to readmit Mr Corbyn by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee marked “another painful day for the Jewish community”.

Allies of Mr Corbyn insisted he would automatically have the whip restored and be readmitted to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

But senior Labour sources insisted that is not the case and it is a decision for party leader Sir Keir and chief whip Nick Brown.

Sir Keir declined to directly address the issue outside his house on Wednesday morning, instead telling journalists: “I put a statement out last night, thank you.”

Whatever decision Sir Keir takes, he will face a backlash – either from those who hoped to draw a line under the Corbyn era or the faction which remains loyal to the former leader.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Sir Keir must refuse to restore the whip.

She said the decision to reinstate Mr Corbyn was an “absolute sham” and shows the Labour Party “have not learned anything at all”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the former leader’s case has “clearly been rushed through and judged by a politicised panel stuffed with his own supporters”.

She added: “I hope this morning that Keir Starmer will have reflected on what has happened yesterday and make it clear that he is refusing to restore the whip.”

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from Labour in the wake of the EHRC report on anti-Semitism (Hollie Adams/PA)

Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour last month for his response to the EHRC report which found the party had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

He claimed the scale of anti-Semitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents both inside and outside Labour, along with the media.

But he later attempted to clarify his comments in a statement to the party, saying concerns about anti-Semitism are “neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated'”.

The NEC’s move to reinstate Mr Corbyn sparked outrage from Labour MPs and Jewish leaders, and prompted reports that former minister Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, could quit the party.

She said on Tuesday evening she cannot “comprehend” why it is acceptable for Mr Corbyn to “be a Labour MP if he thinks anti-Semitism is exaggerated and a political attack”.

Dame Margaret tweeted: “This is a broken outcome from a broken system.”

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, claimed Mr Corbyn’s suspension had been “nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow” of the EHRC report.

The Jewish Labour Movement said it appeared the former party leader’s case had been “expedited” by a “factionally aligned political committee”.

However, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, said the former leader’s readmission is the “correct, fair and unifying decision”.

Sir Keir said on Tuesday evening: “I know that this has been another painful day for the Jewish community and those Labour members who have fought so hard to tackle anti-Semitism. I know the hurt that has been caused and the trauma people have felt.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s statement in response to the EHRC report was wrong and completely distracted from a report that identified unlawful conduct in our tackling of racism within the Labour Party. This should shame us all.

“I will not allow a focus on one individual to prevent us from doing the vital work of tackling anti-Semitism. When I stood as leader of the Labour Party, I was clear that my first priority would be to root out anti-Semitism. It still is.

“I know we have a long way to go, but I am absolutely resolute in my determination to make the Labour Party a safe place for Jewish people. I stand by the commitments I made last month to accept the findings and the recommendations of the EHRC’s report in full.

“That must mean establishing an independent complaints process as soon as possible in the new year. This is my commitment and my promise to our party, the Jewish community and the British people.”

Mr Corbyn tweeted: “I am pleased to have been reinstated in the Labour Party and would like to thank party members, trade unionists and all who have offered solidarity.

“Our movement must now come together to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.”