Corbyn row rumbles on after Starmer refuses to restore whip

Elliot Chappell
© Alexandros Michailidis/
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Keir Starmer announced yesterday that he would not be restoring the whip to Jeremy Corbyn, arguing that the Islington MP had “undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle antisemitism”. While Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl welcomed the decision, Starmer has seen a backlash from his party’s left flank.

Socialist Campaign Group MPs issued a statement calling for the decision to be reversed, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey declared the move “vindictive and vengeful” and Jon Lansman argued it had “driven a coach and horses through the party’s disciplinary process”. Former MP and parliamentary private secretary to John McDonnell Thelma Walker quit the party last night. McDonnell tweeted in response: “When Thelma Walker, one of Labour’s loyalest of the loyal, feels so strongly that she resigns then it’s time voices like hers are listened to.”

While Corbyn allies are outraged that the ex-leader has been blocked from sitting as a Labour MP, his strongest critics remain upset that the Islington MP was readmitted at all. What happens next? Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown contributed his view this morning, telling Sky News that he thinks Starmer will restore the whip but also stressing that Corbyn must make a full apology – “no ifs, no buts, no qualifications”.

Starmer’s spokesperson has vowed that the party will clear the backlog of internal antisemitism disciplinary cases, following the conclusion of Corbyn’s, using the current disciplinary system – the system that Starmer yesterday said “does not have the confidence of the Jewish community”. A pro-Starmer national executive committee member who considered Corbyn’s case has announced that he will no longer be volunteering for disputes panels and suggested that the party pause all complaints processes until the new system is set up. It is still not clear how the new independents process, mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission report, will be established without a party conference.

In other news, Senedd members last night backed legislation that campaigners have said could “revolutionise democracy in Wales”, extending the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds and foreign citizens in local elections and allowing councils to switch to a single transferable vote system. Labour MP and mayoral candidate Liam Byrne declared in an interview with LabourList that the “unofficial slogan” for his West Midlands campaign is “look, let’s just get shit done”. And trade union UNISON has issued a challenge to the government to “save Christmas”, asking ministers to let schools switch to an online format for their lessons next month to reduce the risk of families being required to self-isolate over the holiday period. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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