Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he will not restore the whip to his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn because he “undermined” work in restoring trust and confidence in the party’s ability to tackle anti-Semitism.
Mr Corbyn was reinstated as a party member on Tuesday – three weeks after being suspended in the aftermath of the damning Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into anti-Semitism.
But despite the move by the National Executive Committee, Sir Keir has declined to restore the whip to the former opposition leader – meaning he will continue to sit as an independent MP and will not be part of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Sir Keir said in a statement: “Since I was elected Labour leader, I have made it my mission to root out anti-Semitism from the Labour Party.
“I know that I will judged on my actions, not my words. The disciplinary process does not have the confidence of the Jewish community. That became clear once again yesterday.
“It is the task of my leadership to fix what I have inherited. That is what I am resolute in doing and I have asked for an independent process to be established as soon as possible.
“I’m the Leader of the Labour Party, but I’m also the Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle anti-Semitism.
“In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review.”
In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) November 18, 2020
Sir Keir’s decision has prompted a backlash from the faction which remains loyal to the former leader, but has been welcomed by those who hoped to draw a line under the Corbyn era.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, welcomed the decision but said Labour’s disciplinary process is “clearly still not fit for purpose”.
She said: “Despite the EHRC’s finding that the Party had acted unlawfully under Mr Corbyn’s watch, Jeremy Corbyn’s initial reaction to the report was dismissive and he has been shameless and remorseless for what he has put the Jewish community through.
“Meanwhile, Labour’s disciplinary process is clearly still not fit for purpose. Keir Starmer has now taken the appropriate leadership decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn.
“We continue to say that ‘zero tolerance’ must mean precisely that, whether for anti-Semites or their apologists.”
As Corbyn has refused to himself accept the findings of the EHRC report, refused to apologise for his actions and refused to take any responsibility, withholding the whip is the right decision
— Margaret Hodge (@margarethodge) November 18, 2020
Veteran Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, said withholding the whip from Mr Corbyn was the “right decision”.
She tweeted: “Yesterday has shown once again just how broken and unjust the existing complaints system is. It has caused untold hurt and anguish across the Jewish community, undermined progress made and made me question my own place in the party.
“As Corbyn has refused to himself accept the findings of the EHRC report, refused to apologise for his actions and refused to take any responsibility, withholding the whip is the right decision.”
Labour Against Anti-Semitism said Sir Keir’s move was a “welcome gesture” but criticised the “disgraceful events” that saw the former leader’s suspension from the party ended.
Spokeswoman Fiona Sharpe said: “The decision to continue to withhold the whip from Jeremy Corbyn is a welcome gesture.
“However, it must not be used to obscure the disgraceful events of the last 24 hours or the calamity of institutional anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”
But Jon Lansman, who founded the Corbyn-supporting grassroots activist movement Momentum, condemned Sir Keir’s decision.
He tweeted: “The decision not to restore the whip to Corbyn just announced has driven a coach and horses through the party’s disciplinary process, making it subservient to the parliamentary party and embedding “political interference”.
“The whip was only removed because he had been suspended!”
The decision not to restore the whip to Corbyn just announced has driven a coach and horses through the party’s disciplinary process, making it subservient to the parliamentary party and embedding “political interference”. The whip was only removed because he had been suspended!
— Jon Lansman (@jonlansman) November 18, 2020
Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour last month for his response to the EHRC report which found the party had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
He claimed the scale of anti-Semitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents both inside and outside Labour, along with the media.
But he later attempted to clarify his comments in a statement to the party, saying concerns about anti-Semitism are “neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated'”.