Sir Keir Starmer has warned Jeremy Corbyn faces expulsion from the Labour party after the former leader was suspended yesterday for saying antisemitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.
Starmer spent this morning conducting media interviews trying to repair the damage that the major UK newspaper front pages are predicting has set his party for ‘civil war’.
The Labour leader – who took over from Corbyn in April – defended the unprecedented suspension of his predecessor as the “right” thing to do and insisted he has no role in the disciplinary process.
“There is no need for a civil war,” said Starmer.
When asked if Corbyn could be kicked-out after having the party’s whip withdrawn, Starmer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Yes people have been expelled from the Labour party.”
‘I don’t want a civil war in the Labour party’ – Starmer
Starmer cited that of third of 827 cases of antisemitism investigated since he became leader in April have resulted in members being expelled, adding: “But it’s not for me to say what process should be followed, that’s for the general secretary, or what sanction is in order.
“I don’t want a civil war in the Labour party. I don’t think there’s any need for one. I want to unite the party. But I’m not going to renege on my commitment to root out antisemitism.”
The Unite trade union – one of Labour’s biggest backers – said Corbyn’s suspension risks splitting the party with leader Len McCluskey calling it “an act of grave injustice”.
McCluskey warned of the long term consequences saying if the decision is “not reversed, [it] will create chaos within the party and in doing so compromise Labour’s chances of a general election victory”.
‘Day of shame’ – EHRC Report
Starmer had called yesterday a “day of shame” when commenting on the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) 130 page report into antisemitism in the Labour party.
A 16 month investigation by the EHRC found Labour had broken the law by failing to prevent “acts of harassment and discrimination”.
Corbyn was “ultimately accountable and responsible “ for his party’s failings in dealing with antisemitism, said Alasdair Henderson, the EHRC report’s lead investigator.
It also found that Corbyn’s leadership “did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it”, adding it had “uncovered serious failings” in how complaints were dealt with.
Former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone was also found to have committed “unlawful harassment” relating to antisemitism while Corbyn’s office unlawfully “politically interfered” in a score of allegations.
Starmer said he will fully implement all of the EHRC report’s recommendations and the Labour party faces legal action if it fails to do so before December 10.
‘Starmer has his own questions to answer’ – Raab
The Labour leader said today that he hopes “to draw a line” under the issue and “move on”. However, with Corbyn signalling his intention to “strongly contest” his suspension from the party he joined more 55 years ago – and led for the last five – there will be little hope of unity in the short term for Labour.
The Conservative party has seized on the opportunity to attack Labour following weeks of negative coverage on the government’s mishandling of the pandemic and more recently the free school meals issue, saying Starmer has his questions to answer.
“I think it is fair to ask Keir Starmer why he’s taken this action now when it was less than a year ago that he was asking the British people and calling on them to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister, said the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab. “It feels like this isn’t a point of principle that he’s acted on but it’s a question of political expediency.”
Four months ago Starmer sacked Corbyn ally and leadership contender Rebecca Long Bailey after she retweeted a link to an interview of her friend in the Independent that was seen as having antisemitic content.