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Jeremy Corbyn suspension reignites Labour civil war as he demands party 'think again'  


Pickle
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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/jeremy-corbyn-suspension-reignites-labour-22927128?utm_source=mirror_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=EM_Mirror_Nletter_DailyNews_News_smallteaser_Image_Story1&utm_campaign=daily_newsletter&ccid=2369561

Jeremy Corbyn suspension reignites Labour civil war as he demands party 'think again'

The former leader was ousted from Labour for suggesting the scale of the problem with anti-Semitism was 'dramatically overstated for political reasons'

By Lizzy Buchan Political Correspondent

The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn after a damning report into anti-Semitism in the party has reignited Labour's bitter civil war.  In a day of high drama, the former Labour leader was ousted from the party for suggesting the scale of the problem was "dramatically overstated for political reasons".

His comments came only hours after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said Labour had broken equalities laws through harassment and political interference in complaints of anti-Jewish hate.  Labour leader Keir Starmer made it clear that claiming the issue had been exaggerated or was a "factional attack" would not be tolerated.

Party bosses moved to suspend Mr Corbyn after he refused to withdraw the remarks.  The suspension was today backed by several Jewish groups, Labour veteran Harriet Harman and former MP Luciana Berger, who quit the party over the issue.  But allies of Mr Corbyn hit out and he demanded the party "think again".

Today's report found Mr Corbyn's office interfered in almost two dozen anti-Semitism complaints including one against the Labour leader himself.  It blasted what it called "serious failings in leadership" adding: "Although some improvements have been made to the process for dealing with antisemitism complaints, it is hard not to conclude that antisemitism within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so."

Mr Corbyn was suspended not over the report itself which stopped short of finding he personally discriminated against anyone but his response to it.  Labour would not say what rule Mr Corbyn was accused of breaking.  It is against Labour Party rules to do anything the ruling NEC deems is "grossly detrimental to the party", but it is unclear how that will translate in the new independent complaints system Sir Keir has vowed to set up.  Sources would also not say which came first his suspension from the party, or losing the whip. While general secretary David Evans suspended Mr Corbyn, Mr Starmer was involved in him losing the whip.  Mr Corbyn called on the party to think again on his suspension and urged his supporters to "stay in the party" to fight for left-wing principles.  In a broadcast interview, Mr Corbyn said: "Quite clearly the decision was made in a very quick way and I would just say, hang on a minute, let's all keep a bit calm, let's think again about this whole issue.  Our party comes together to fight racism and injustice but we also come together to bring about economic justice for the people of this country.  That is what unites our movement and our party and that is what I appeal to members to focus on.  Don't go away, don't leave the party. Stay in the party and argue the case for economic and social justice in our society."

But Mr Starmer defended the decision and said he was committed to rooting out anti-Semitism in the party.  Jeremy Corbyn appealed to his supporters to stay in the party.  Speaking after Mr Corbyn's suspension, he said: "I want to unite the Labour Party and bring our factions together as a united party.  But I made a very clear commitment to root out anti-Semitism and I'm going to follow through on that commitment.  We cannot say 'zero tolerance' and then turn a blind eye."

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Mr Corbyn would have the chance to put forward "his side of the story" during the investigation into his comments about anti-Semitism following his suspension from the party.  Speaking to BBC Radio 4's PM programme, she said: "The party has taken the decision to suspend Jeremy and it is important to note that that is a decision taken by the Labour Party and not by the leader's office, as per the recommendation in the EHRC report that the leader should not interfere in these decisions.  What will then happen is that Jeremy will be investigated, the circumstances of his suspension will be investigated, the comments that were made, and he will be given an opportunity as part of that process to put forward his side of the story.  There is no suggestion of guilt before a decision is made but that will be investigated robustly and as transparently as possible."

The row has blown apart fragile truces between different parts of the party, with many on the left regarding Mr Corbyn's suspension as a line in the sand.  His long-term ally John McDonnell urged the party to reconsider.  Speaking after Mr Corbyn's suspension, he said: "I want to unite the Labour Party and bring our factions together as a united party.  But I made a very clear commitment to root out anti-Semitism and I'm going to follow through on that commitment.  We cannot say 'zero tolerance' and then turn a blind eye."

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Mr Corbyn would have the chance to put forward "his side of the story" during the investigation into his comments about anti-Semitism following his suspension from the party.  Speaking to BBC Radio 4's PM programme, she said: "The party has taken the decision to suspend Jeremy and it is important to note that that is a decision taken by the Labour Party and not by the leader's office, as per the recommendation in the EHRC report that the leader should not interfere in these decisions.  What will then happen is that Jeremy will be investigated, the circumstances of his suspension will be investigated, the comments that were made, and he will be given an opportunity as part of that process to put forward his side of the story.  There is no suggestion of guilt before a decision is made but that will be investigated robustly and as transparently as possible."

The row has blown apart fragile truces between different parts of the party, with many on the left regarding Mr Corbyn's suspension as a line in the sand.  His long-term ally John McDonnell urged the party to reconsider.  The former Shadow Chancellor said: "On the day we should all be moving forward and taking all steps to fight antisemitism, the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is profoundly wrong. In interests of party unity let’s find a way of undoing and resolving this.  I urge all party members to stay calm as that is the best way to support Jeremy and each other. Let’s all call upon the leadership to lift this suspension.”

Hundreds of people donated within hours tonight to an online legal fund for Mr Corbyn, which was set up to help him pay for a legal action from Panorama reporter John Ware.  Labour apologised earlier this year for making defamatory remarks about the Panorama programme, which exposed how anti-Semitism was dealt with in the party.

Labour left-wingers also condemned the move, saying they would work tirelessly to reinstate Mr Corbyn.  The Socialist Campaign Group of MPs said: "We firmly oppose the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party.  We will work tirelessly for his reinstatement.  The fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism is central to the struggle for a society based on justice and equality."

Grassroots activists network Momentum warned that the suspension "risks politicising Labour's response".

Co-chair Andrew Scattergood said: "It is a massive attack on the left by the new leadership and should be immediately lifted in the interests of party unity.”

The move also provoked concern among the Communication Workers Union, which has been closely allied with Mr Corbyn and his ideals.  General secretary Dave Ward said: "The EHRC report is a serious and detailed document everyone in the Party should read and understand. Keir Starmer's political decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn a lifelong anti-racist campaigner flies in the face of the report.  It's fundamentally wrong and needs to change."

Unite boss Len McCluskey said: “This was a day for our party to move forward as one to defeat the evil of antisemitism.  However, the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn has threatened that opportunity.  The suspension appears to fly in the face of one of the important recommendations made by the EHRC and which Keir himself said he would implement in full and immediately which is to remove the leader’s office from party investigations.  But it is also an act of grave injustice which, if not reversed, will create chaos within the party and in doing so compromise Labour’s chances of a general election victory. A split party will be doomed to defeat.”

He urged Keir Starmer to work across the party to find a unifying way forward and appealed to members not to leave Labour.  He added: “ Working people are under fire like never before and ill-served by the worst government of our lifetimes. More than ever, they need a strong, united Labour party to stand up for them, ready to govern.”

A union source said the "civil war in the party has opened up again over suspending Jeremy".

"That’s a line in the sand for people," the source said.

“The feeling is you can’t mention socialism in the party any more.  Everyone takes anti-Semitism really seriously but I think there is a political element to this. Keir seemed to act after so many questions from the media all about Jeremy.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis did not comment on Mr Corbyn's suspension but said the EHRC report was "incredibly serious and damaging".  “It will now be up to the whole Labour Party led by Keir Starmer to learn the vital lessons outlined in this shameful, distressing report, and repair its damaged relationship with the Jewish community," he said.

A GMB spokesperson said: “Today’s EHRC report makes sobering reading.  It’s right that the EHRC’s recommendations are implemented in full and that Labour works to rebuild broken trust with Jewish communities. There is no place for antisemitism.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said it had submitted new complaints against Mr Corbyn and 15 other MPs, including ex-shadow cabinet members Diane Abbott and Rebecca-Long Bailey.  It said the report had "utterly vindicated" British Jews who had been accused of lying to smear the party.  Ex-Labour MP Luciana Berger, who quit the party last year over anti-Semitism, said: "The findings of the report today are damning, I don't think they could have been any worse than what we've heard and seen today."

She said Mr Corbyn "should have acknowledged the pain and the hurt and the scars" of Jewish Brits and suspending the whip was the "right decision".

Ms Berger was asked by Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 Live “Is Jeremy Corbyn anti-Semitic?”. She replied “I call a spade a spade… If someone themselves shares platforms with anti-Semites, they’re anti-Semitic”.

Labour MP Harriet Harman said Mr Corbyn's suspension is "the right thing to do". Ms Harman tweeted: "If you say that AS exaggerated for factional reasons you minimise it & are, as Keir-Starmer says, part of the problem."

Labour veteran and Jewish Labour Movement chair Margaret Hodge said Mr Corbyn had been in "persistent denial" for five years and "he gave Keir Starmer no option but to suspend him."

The Jewish Labour Movement said suggesting complaints of antisemitism are "fakes or smears" was an act of antisemitism, and tackling this will be "the first test" of Keir Starmer's leadership.  JLM added blame for the "sordid, disgraceful chapter" in the party's history "lies firmly with those who held positions of leadership". 

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who spoke out against Mr Corbyn before the election, said the report was a "historic nadir for the Labour P

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Pickle
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Last word should be Party

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