Jeremy Corbyn has appealed to “the party and those that have made this decision to kindly think again” about his suspension that followed his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report.
In an interview with Sky News this afternoon, the former Labour leader reiterated that he would be contesting the decision and argued that he is “not diminishing or minimising the issue of antisemitism”.
Corbyn said: “Antisemitism has no place whatsoever in our party or in our movement. I have opposed it and racism in all its forms all my life. And that is what I’ve made clear during my leadership of the party and what I’ll make clear today.”
The EHRC concluded today that Labour is responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act – relating to political interference in antisemitism complaints; failure to provide adequate training to those handling them; and harassment.
Corbyn issued a statement this morning in response to the report, which claimed the “the scale of the [antisemitism] problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.
A Labour spokesperson subsequently announced that Corbyn had been suspended, and the Parliamentary Labour Party whip removed from the Labour MP, “in light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them”.
LabourList understands that Angela Rayner and her team were in touch with Corbyn and his team about his response to the EHRC statement before it was posted – and warned that it would be problematic.
Sources say Corbyn was asked by Rayner’s team after posting his statement on Facebook to retract, withdraw or correct the comments about the scale of antisemitism being “overstated” in his next media appearance.
Corbyn argued this afternoon: “All I have done is pointed out that this terrible issue of antisemitism does exist and anyone that has antisemitic views has no place in the labour movement or the Labour Party.
“All I pointed out was there was a public perception of a third of Labour Party members under suspicion of antisemitism – the reality is very different, it was 0.03%. But that is 0.3% too many.”
Asked if he would retract his response to the EHRC report, the former Labour leader said: “I’ve explained what I’ve said. I’ve explained what I meant by it. I am not diminishing or minimising the issue of antisemitism.
“It is serious. It is real. It does exist. And indeed I’ve said very bluntly to a number of people over the last few years who have said to me ‘well, it doesn’t exist’ – I’ve said it does exist and it’s got to be dealt with.”
Pressed again on whether he would walk back his earlier comments, he added: “I’ve explained what the statement was designed to say – simply the size of the issue. But one antisemite is one antisemite too many and I’ve made that clear.”
On the disciplinary action, he said: “It seems odd that it all happened so very quickly, and indeed I’ve yet to receive any official communication about that but obviously I’ll be looking at my inbox when I finally get to my office today.”
He added: “I just say, hang on a minute, let’s all keep a bit calmer. Let’s think again about this whole issue. Our party comes together to fight racism and injustice, but we also come together to bring about economic justice for the people of this country.
“That is what unites our movement and our party. And that is what I appeal to members to focus on. Don’t go away, don’t leave the party. Stay in the party and argue the case for economic and social justice in our party.”
Jeremy Corbyn is asked if he will retract comments he made in reaction to the release of the Labour antisemitism report.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 29, 2020
Commenting on the EHRC report at a press conference this morning, after the former Labour leader made his statement, Keir Starmer declared: “If you’re antisemitic, you should be nowhere near this party. And we’ll make sure you’re not.
“And if after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report, there are still those who think there’s no problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party. That it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack.
“Then, frankly, you are part of the problem too. And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either.”
Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has declared the disciplinary action taken against Corbyn today was “profoundly wrong” and has urged Labour members to “call upon the leadership to lift this suspension”.
The Socialist Campaign Group of MPs has tweeted that they “firmly oppose the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn” and have pledged to “work tirelessly for his reinstatement”.
Gabriel Pogrund has since reported that not all SCG MPs were consulted on the tweet, with one member saying it was “ill-advised to issue the statement” and they were “waiting to find out on what grounds” he was suspended.
Several trade union figures have expressed their opposition to Corbyn’s suspension. CWU general secretary Dave Ward tweeted that it “flies in the face of the report” and the leadership needed to reverse the decision.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett highlighted a section of the report that said party members could express opinions on the scale of antisemitism and asked Starmer to “explain why you take a different view than the EHRC?”
A number of recommendations have been made by the EHRC for Labour in its report around living up to the zero-tolerance commitment on antisemitism, rebuilding trust, education and training and on monitoring and evaluating improvements.
Labour has been served with an unlawful act notice following the investigation. The party has six weeks to produce an action plan in response to the findings and recommendations of the report published today.
Starmer has pledged to implement an independent complaints process “as quickly as possible” and he hopes that this will be “early next year”. Rule changes would normally require conference approval.
The party has until December 10th to deliver an action plan to the EHRC on how it will implement the recommendations and when. This is legally enforceable by the court if not fulfilled.