Keir Starmer has declared that the Labour Party “cannot say zero tolerance and then turn a blind eye” in relation to the suspension of former party leader Jeremy Corbyn over his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report.
In an interview this afternoon, the Labour leader discussed the statement issued by Corbyn in response to the outcome of the investigation into the handling of antisemitism complaints by the Labour Party in recent years.
Starmer said: “I made it very clear in my response to the commission’s report this morning that the Labour Party will not tolerate antisemitism or the denial of antisemitism by suggestions that it is exaggerated or factional.
“I was very disappointed in Jeremy Corbyn’s statement and appropriate action has been taken, which I fully support.”
The EHRC report published today found that there were “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination”, “serious failings in leadership” and an “inadequate” process for antisemitism complaints.
Corbyn issued a statement in response to the report, arguing that the “the scale of the [antisemitism] problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.
Starmer added this afternoon: “I want to unite the Labour Party, bring our factions together as a united party. But I made a very clear commitment to root out antisemitism and I’m going to follow through on that commitment.”
Sir Keir Starmer has expressed disappointment in Jeremy Corbyn's response to a report on antisemitism.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 29, 2020
Commenting on the EHRC report at a press conference this morning, after the former Labour leader had 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.”
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.
The interview with Labour leader Starmer followed comments from Corbyn earlier this afternoon on the suspension, in which he appealed to “the party and those that have made this decision to kindly think again”.