Keir Starmer has promised to clear the backlog of internal antisemitism disciplinary cases following the readmittance of Jeremy Corbyn – but intends to do using the current complaints system.
The Labour leader’s spokesperson was grilled by journalists this afternoon on issues surrounding the suspension of Corbyn and the lifting of the suspension by a national executive committee (NEC) panel.
The aide was asked why Labour has not chosen to delay the processing of all disciplinary matters until a new independent system – mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – is set up.
The spokesperson replied: “That was a decision for the party and I’m not going to give a running commentary on the kinds of decisions they’re making. But the independent process is not set up yet.
“Keir has an ambition to set it up in the early part of the New Year. Whilst that process is happening, we need to clear the backlog of antisemitism cases and to continue to have a disciplinary process in place.”
It was pointed out that the party is seeking to clear the backlog of cases under a system that has been described as “not fit for purpose” and that Starmer has said “does not have the confidence of the Jewish community”.
Starmer’s spokesperson did not directly address this point, but replied: “We need a complaints process in place. And we need a complaints process in place after the establishment of the independent process.”
The Labour leader’s spokesperson confirmed that the choice of members for the NEC disputes panel is a “decision taken by the party”, specifically officials working under David Evans rather than the ruling body.
The panel on Tuesday was made up of two Corbyn-aligned members, Yasmine Dar and Ian Murray, two Corbynsceptic members, Gurinder Singh Josan and Wendy Nichols, and one ‘soft left’ rep Alice Perry.
While the Jewish Labour Movement has criticised the decision to lift Corbyn’s suspension on the basis that it was taken by a “factionally-aligned political committee”, the panel was not politically in Corbyn’s favour.
Perry is in the middle of the party and usually thought to vote with Starmer, such as on his pick for general secretary. The panel’s decision to readmit Corbyn and issue him with a formal warning was unanimous.
The spokesperson also confirmed that Starmer spoke to Margaret Hodge on Tuesday evening after Corbyn’s suspension was lifted by the NEC. The MP has reportedly considered quitting the party over the development.
Asked whether Starmer believed the public would see Labour as a competent and professional party after these events, the spokesperson said: “I think that what the public will see is a leader that is absolutely determined to root out antisemitism”.
Starmer’s office would not offer detail to lobby journalists on what criteria is being used by the leadership to determine whether the Labour whip should be restored to Corbyn following his readmission.