Shock suspension of long-serving MP Corbyn sparks Labour rebellion
Thousands back party's former leader, who has represented Islington for nearly 40 years, over anti-semitism row decision
Friday, 30th October 2020 — By Calum Fraser
Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn last night (Thursday) spoke of his shock at being suspended from the party
A REBELLION was last night (Thursday) growing among Labour members at the party’s decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn after nearly 40 years as an Islington MP.
The former leader was unceremoniously stripped of the whip following the publication of an investigation into anti-semitism in the Labour Party, and how complaints were dealt with.
Mr Corbyn told the Tribune: “I found out I had been suspended when I was leaving the Brickworks Community Centre and I was doorstepped by a journalist. That’s the first time I heard about it. I was shocked and disappointed by this and I would have thought the very least I deserve is the courtesy of a call.”
More than 40,000 people have so far signed a petition calling for Mr Corbyn to be reinstated while members in his constituency, Islington North, reacted with shock at how he had been treated. Mr Corbyn will sit as an independent MP but said he will challenge his suspension.
He said: “I am proud to be the MP of Islington North and proud to represent the people of our community, and that is what I will continue doing and putting all my energies into.”
And as the party stood fractured over the issue, he added: “To members of the Labour Party, I say: please don’t leave, stay, and argue the case for the radical policies we need to eliminate poverty and injustice within our society.”
Sir Keir Starmer
Mr Corbyn’s suspension came after the publication of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into accusations of anti-Jewish racism within the Labour Party during Mr Corbyn’s tenure as leader.
The watchdog said it had found the party was responsible for breaches of the Equality Act relating to “political interference in anti-semitism complaints”, “harassment” and failure to provide “adequate training” to those handling anti-semitism complaints.
Mr Corbyn responded to the findings by saying that anti-semitism is “absolutely abhorrent, wrong and responsible for some of humanity’s greatest crimes”.
He also blamed “obstructive party bureaucracy” for an initially slow response to complaints of anti-semitism and added that the scale of the problem within Labour was “overstated” by “much of the media” as well as opponents “inside and outside the party”.
These comments clashed with new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who said the problem of anti-semitism could not be understated.
The exact process which led to Mr Corbyn being suspended was still being pieced together yesterday amid calls for transparency over how the decision was taken.
Mr Corbyn during his time as party leader
Mr Corbyn said: “I am very grateful to the thousands of messages of support I have had this afternoon from people encouraging our party to look very carefully at this decision and make sure I am reinstated at the earliest possible opportunity.”
He added: “I am proud to be a member of the Labour Party I joined when I was 16. I am suspended as a party member as of this moment and I cannot attend Labour Party meetings. I obviously fully support the Islington Labour Party and I’m very proud of the work they’ve done and I am grateful for the amazing support they have given me over the years.”
It is likely that the Islington North Constituency Labour Party (CLP) will now hold an emergency meeting.
Mr Corbyn has represented the area since 1983 and he currently has a majority of 26,188.
The Tribune spoke with several members of the CLP who expressed their support for Mr Corbyn but would not speak on the record. There were suggestions that some had been told not to comment if approached for their views. One said she was “in bits, in total shock”.
David Rosenberg, who is part of the executive committee but said he could speak only in a private capacity, said: “As a Jewish member of Islington North CLP I know that Jeremy Corbyn is 100 per cent a solid ally with us in the fight against anti-semitism and fascism.”
Mr Corbyn campaigning ahead of last year’s general election
Mildmay ward councillor Jenny Kay, who is also Jewish, said: “I’m pretty dismayed. It feels like we’re going backwards again.
“The ECHR has made some really important recommendations and we should be focusing on implementing them, fighting anti-semitism and on holding this awful government to account.”
She added: “Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension only serves to restart a Labour Party civil war that will polarise people further.
“Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader because he promised unity. I would urge the leadership of the Labour Party to lift Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension.”
St George’s ward councillor Gulcin Ozdemir, who previously told the Tribune how Mr Corbyn had helped her Kurdish parents as they fled persecution in Turkey, said: “I’ve known Jeremy my whole life and watched him relentlessly fight against all forms of racism.
“I am struggling to find the words and to register that he has been suspended from a party I don’t even recognise any more.
“For an MP that’s inspired millions this is truly a painful day.”
The EHRC report found 23 instances of inappropriate involvement by the leader of the opposition’s office.
Labour has been given until December 10 to draft an action plan to implement the report’s recommendations, which is legally enforceable by the courts if not fulfilled.
The recommendations made by the watchdog include commissioning an independent process to handle anti-semitism complaints, acknowledging the effect political interference has had, and implementing clear rules to stop it happening again.
A spokesman for the Labour Party said: “In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation. He has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”