Furious Sir Keir Starmer says Jeremy Corbyn could be EXPELLED from Labour over anti-Semitism row as allies of the ex-leader warn ‘he has an army behind him’ and Len McCluskey says a ‘split party will be doomed to defeat’
- Sir Keir Starmer said Jeremy Corbyn could be expelled over anti-Semitism row
- But Labour leader is facing a party civil war after Mr Corbyn was suspended
- Allies of Mr Corbyn warned Sir Keir that Mr Corbyn ‘has an army behind him’
A furious Sir Keir Starmer today said Jeremy Corbyn could be expelled from Labour over his response to a damning official report into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism.
An investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found Labour was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.
But Mr Corbyn rejected some of the equality watchdog’s findings and claimed the issue had been ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’ by his critics.
That prompted him to be suspended from the party pending investigation and Sir Keir warned this morning that the probe could result in his predecessor being kicked out of Labour for good.
Sir Keir insisted ‘there is no reason for a civil war in our party’ but the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn has caused a damaging and growing split.
Allies of Mr Corbyn warned Sir Keir that ‘Jeremy has an army behind him and a lot of legal funding’ while Unite the union boss Len McCluskey hit out at the decision and said ‘a split party will be doomed to defeat’.
Sir Keir Starmer said this morning that Jeremy Corbyn could ultimately be expelled from the Labour Party over the anti-Semitism row
Mr Corbyn was suspended pending an investigation after he said the issue had been ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’
Unite the union boss Len McCluskey, an ally of Mr Corbyn, said ‘a split party will be doomed to defeat’ amid a growing Labour civil war
The charges against Labour in damning 130-page report
- Labour breached the Equality Act 2010 by committing ‘unlawful harassment’ in two of the complaints investigated. They included ‘using antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of antisemitism were fake or smears’.
- One of the cases involved Ken Livingstone, who in 2016 defended MP Naz Shah over claims of anti-Semitism by claiming there was a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to undermine and disrupt Mr Corbyn’s leadership. He later resigned from the Labour Party after being suspended.
- A further 18 cases were ‘borderline’, involving local councillors, local election candidates and Constituency Labour Party (CLP) officials.
- Analysis of 70 anti-Semitism complaint files found 23 incidences of ‘political interference’ by Mr Corbyn’s office and others. This included ‘clear examples of interference at various stages throughout the complaint handling process, including in decisions on whether to investigate and whether to suspend’ party members.
- The party’s complaints process was ‘inconsistent, poor, and lacking in transparency’.
- In cases where a complaint of anti-Semitism was upheld, it was ‘difficult to draw conclusions on whether the sanctions applied were fair and consistent’.
- Recommendations made by the watchdog include commissioning an independent process to handle anti-Semitism complaints and acknowledging the effect political interference has had and implementing clear rules to stop it happening again.
Labour will now conduct a formal investigation into the comments made yesterday by Mr Corbyn.
Sir Keir was pushed on whether that probe could end with the former leader being expelled.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There is a process that will now go through the governance and legal unit, there are a possible number of sanctions.’
Asked if one of the options is expulsion, Sir Keir replied: ‘Yes, people have been expelled from the Labour Party. There have been I think 827 cases since I became leader which is more than all of the cases in 2019 and in a third of those cases people have been expelled.
‘But it is not for me to say what process should be followed, that is for the General Secretary, or what sanction is in order.’
Sir Keir said he was ‘deeply disappointed’ by Mr Corbyn’s comments as he claimed the ex-leader was aware he would warn people against claiming anti-Semitism had been exaggerated.
He said: ‘I’m deeply disappointed in that response from Jeremy Corbyn yesterday not least because I spoke to him the night before the report to set out how I intended to deal with it.
‘And from discussions yesterday morning I’m in no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn and his team knew exactly what I was going to say in my response about not only anti-Semitism but about the denial and the arguments about exaggeration and it’s just a factional fight.’
Sir Keir said he hoped the Labour Party would be able to ‘draw a line and move forward’ following the publication of the EHRC report.
But he is facing a growing party split over the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn.
Allies of Mr Corbyn told The Telegraph: ‘This was a disastrous miscalculation. It could now escalate.
‘He doesn’t understand the scale of what is about to happen, and it’s going to get very difficult for him. Jeremy has an army behind him and a lot of legal funding.’
Meanwhile, Mr McCluskey, an ally of Mr Corbyn, said the decision to suspend him was an ‘act of grave injustice’ which could ‘create chaos within the party’ and put any chance of election success in jeopardy.
‘A split party will be doomed to defeat,’ he said.
Responding to Mr McCluskey’s comments, Sir Keir said he believed there is ‘no reason for a civil war’.
He told Sky News: ‘What Len McCluskey is concerned about is that there shouldn’t be a split in the Labour Party and he is right about that.
‘I don’t want a split in the Labour Party. I stood as leader of the Labour Party on the basis that I would unite the party but also that I would tackle anti-Semitism.
‘I think both of those can be done. There is no reason for a civil war in our party but we are absolutely determined, I am absolutely determined to root out anti-Semitism.
‘I don’t want the words Labour Party and anti-Semitism in the same sentence again.’
In a bid for unity following the decision to suspend him, Mr Corbyn urged Labour members to ‘stay’ and fight internally against any shift to the centre ground.
But the battle lines were drawn as allies openly warned of a potential split, activists relinquished their memberships and Momentum – a campaigning arm of the party during the Islington North MP’s five-year reign – announced there will be a virtual Stand with Corbyn rally on Friday evening.
Encouraging social media followers to join the rally, Momentum posted: ‘The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn by the Labour Party leadership is a naked attack on the left that undermines the fight against anti-Semitism and makes a mockery of Keir Starmer’s pledge to unite the party.’
In an eventful day for Labour, reports surfaced that deputy leader Angela Rayner contacted Mr Corbyn and his team following his controversial statement yesterday and called for him to retract his ‘overstated’ comments.
It was his failure to withdraw the remarks that led to Labour suspending him as current leader Sir Keir sought to draw a dividing line between the party now and under Mr Corbyn’s tenure, which ended in April.
The Guardian reported that Mr Corbyn is understood to have spoken to Sir Keir ahead of the EHRC’s report publication on Wednesday evening and was reassured there was no plan to take action against him in light of its findings.
But the situation is understood to have changed after the 71-year-old released his statement, which was published only moments before Sir Keir told a press conference he would not tolerate anyone who denied the scale of the anti-Semitism crisis.
Labour stressed that the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn was taken by its General Secretary David Evans, but shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy confirmed Sir Keir was briefed beforehand and approved of the move.
Sir Keir told reporters: ‘I made it clear that we won’t tolerate anti-Semitism or the denial of anti-Semitism through the suggestion that it’s exaggerated or factional and that’s why I was disappointed in Jeremy Corbyn’s response, and that is why appropriate action has been taken, which I fully support.’
Ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell described the suspension as ‘profoundly wrong’.
The fallout came on what Sir Keir labelled a ‘day of shame’ for Labour after the EHRC found the party broke equality law over its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
The EHRC investigation found evidence of ‘political interference’ by then leader Mr Corbyn’s office in the complaints process.
Interim chairwoman Caroline Waters said there had been ‘inexcusable’ failures which ‘appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so’.
The watchdog identified three breaches of the Equality Act relating to political interference in complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism cases, and harassment.
The party has been served with an unlawful act notice and has been given until December 10 to draft an action plan to implement the report’s recommendations. The notice is legally enforceable by the courts if not fulfilled.
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