Sir Keir Starmer has urged Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters not to tie up Labour with costly legal battles in an attempt to secure the former leader’s reinstatement.
Corbyn was suspended last month after claiming that the scale of anti-semitism in the Labour Party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.
His remarks were prompted by a bombshell inquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which found that Labour had unlawfully discriminated against Jewish members under Corbyn’s leadership.
It has since been reported that Baroness Chakrabarti – the former shadow attorney general – is working on a legal case to revoke Corbyn’s suspension.
‘I will talk to Shami’
A legal fund set up in support of Corbyn earlier this year, after it emerged that a Panorama reporter was suing him for libel, has also seen a spike in donations since the suspension – with a GoFundMe effort raising over £370,000 to fight the former leader’s legal tussles.
But in a phone-in on LBC, Sir Keir said the party should be focussed on winning elections rather than “yet more legal cases” – and vowed to raise the issue with Lady Chakrabarti when he saw her next.
“I don’t think anybody wants to see yet more legal cases. I want to see the Labour Party focused on campaigning to win elections,” he said.
“We have got a massive set of elections next May, we have got a general election in 2024. We absolutely have to be focused on that.
“So I don’t want to see any Labour Party money or time tied up with yet more legal cases. I will talk to Shami about this when I next speak to her.”
Starmer added that it had not been a “political decision” by general secretary David Evans to suspend Corbyn – despite the former leader’s supporters alleging that it had been.
“It is quite something when an Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which was set up by a Labour government, finds the Labour Party in breach of a law that the Labour government passed,” he said.
“In those circumstances I think it is very important to take tough decisions.”
Sir Keir said he was committed to putting in place measures to implement the commission’s recommendations by next month’s deadline.
“We have been anticipating this report. We have done quite a lot of the hard work already. We will hand that plan on time to commission and then I hope we can sign it off and start working to it,” he said.
“I think what those who were most pained by our failure to deal with anti-Semitism want is an honest acknowledgement by the Labour Party of the scale of the problem and to see us committed to changing it.
“That is the commitment I will give and I will deliver on.”