Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to block Jeremy Corbyn from sitting as a Labour MP despite his readmission as a party member has reignited the civil war on the opposition benches – perhaps at a time when a united opposition is needed the most.
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said a “politicised” disciplinary process had resulted in Mr Corbyn’s readmittance to the party after his suspension – imposed in the wake of a damning report into the handling of anti-Semitism in Labour – was lifted on Tuesday.
Labour leader Sir Keir said on Wednesday morning that he would not restore the whip, meaning Mr Corbyn will continue to sit as an independent MP and will not be part of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
Excluding @jeremycorbyn as a Labour MP is wrong. Does @Keir_Starmer REALLY think that @UKLabour members would have voted for him as leader if they knew that within months he would do this? No way to unite the party #IStandWithJeremyCorbyn pic.twitter.com/rBDkS7baPF— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) November 19, 2020
“No way to unite the party”
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, an ally of Mr Corbyn, questioned whether Sir Keir would ever have been elected leader if members knew how he would act against his predecessor.
She said excluding Mr Corbyn was “wrong” and Sir Keir’s actions were “no way to unite the party”.
But prominent Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge suggested she would have left the party if Mr Corbyn had been readmitted to the PLP and Sir Keir’s actions “did a lot to restore his credibility”.
Dame Margaret told the BBC’s Today programme: “It was completely wrong for the party to let Corbyn back in under a process that was shown, again, to be broken and politically corrupted, and I think it was completely right of Keir Starmer to deny Jeremy Corbyn the whip.”
This action gives rise to double jeopardy in the handling of the case and shows marked bad faith. The unity of the Labour Party around the need to implement the EHRC recommendations in full is being recklessly undermined. 2/3— Len McCluskey (@LenMcCluskey) November 18, 2020
Mr Corbyn was reinstated as a Labour member by the National Executive Committee following a meeting of a disciplinary panel, three weeks after he was suspended over his response to a scathing Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report.
The equalities watchdog has ordered Labour to establish an independent process to deal with anti-Semitism issues, rather than the system which dealt with Mr Corbyn’s case.
Ms Dodds told Today it was “a matter of huge regret”, adding: “We have to sort out that system, it cannot remain as a politicised system.”
Asked whether there could be a way to readmit Mr Corbyn to the PLP, she said Sir Keir had promised to keep the position “under review”.
The decision to not restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn is wrong. It should be swiftly reversed. Our statement. pic.twitter.com/7saQxGiqKE— Socialist Campaign Group (@socialistcam) November 18, 2020
Socialist Campaign Group
Ms Abbott was one of more than 30 MPs and peers in the left-wing Socialist Campaign Group calling for Mr Corbyn to have the whip restored.
The group said: “The decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn is wrong and damaging to the Labour Party.”
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite – Labour’s biggest donor – said the refusal to restore the whip to Mr Corbyn was “vindictive and vengeful” as he urged Sir Keir to “pull back from the brink”.
He accused Sir Keir of acting in “bad faith” and reports have suggested that allies of Mr Corbyn believed a deal had been struck with this successor’s office to restore his standing in the party – a claim denied by the leadership.