David Lammy: Labour has no plans to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn as Labour MP

Elliot Chappell
© Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.com

David Lammy has urged Jeremy Corbyn to withdraw his name from a Stop the War Coalition statement criticising NATO amid the conflict in Ukraine and said “I don’t think there are any plans to reinstate him” as a Labour MP.

In a Times Radio interview this morning, the Shadow Foreign Secretary said that by signing the declaration recently the former Labour leader and now Independent MP was “effectively parroting the lines that are coming from Vladimir Putin that suggest that this is because of threats from NATO, or NATO expansion”.

“This is about imperial ambition, on behalf of Vladimir Putin. It’s about very, very sadly waging war on innocent people children dying overnight. I’m afraid no member of parliament in a free democratic system like ours should sign up to that agenda that is effectively his,” Lammy told listeners.

His comments came after backbench MP Zarah Sultana warned that accusations made in relation to the 11 Labour MPs who also signed the statement had “crossed the line from false to dangerous” after she received a “horrific” death threat.

Asked whether restricting Labour MPs from criticising NATO is “a bit Stalinist”, Lammy said that the left should be “proud” of the “instrumental” role that the Labour Party played in setting up the alliance in the wake of the Second World War.

Sultana, along with Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, Ian Lavery, Beth Winter, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Apsana Begum, Mick Whitley, Tahir Ali and Ian Mearns, had signed the statement by the organisation once chaired by Corbyn.

But the 11 MPs subsequently pulled their support from the statement on Thursday after being urged to do so by Labour’s chief whip because, LabourList understands, it was thought they would have the whip withdrawn if they refused.

In a statement shared on social media on Friday, Sultana highlighted that BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio had been forced to apologise for alleging that the MPs had “suggested NATO is responsible for the crisis in Ukraine” and that LBC broadcaster Iain Dale had described the MPs as “fifth columnists”.

Sultana wrote: “Like all my colleagues, I am horrified at the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I stand with the people of Ukraine and have unequivocally condemned Putin’s actions; I loathe his authoritarian, nationalist and right-wing regime.”

She added: “This McCarthyite environment doesn’t just increase the threat of violence to public figures. It also threatens to weaken our democracy, radically narrowing political debate and silencing dissent to establishment opinion. This is deeply unhealthy for our society and must be challenged.”

The declaration stated that “Russia and Ukraine should reach a diplomatic settlement of the tensions between them” and that NATO should “call a halt to its eastward expansion”. It also refuted “the idea that NATO is a defensive alliance”.

It criticised the British government for sending arms to Ukraine and for having “talked up the threat of war continually”. Keir Starmer has been strongly supportive of the UK government supporting Ukraine via military equipment and training.

The statement said: “Our focus is on the policies of the British government which have poured oil on the fire throughout this episode. In taking this position we do not endorse the nature or conduct of either the Russian or Ukrainian regimes.”

The declaration from February 18th was also signed by Labour Unions chair and ASLEF train drivers’ union general secretary Mick Whelan, plus independent MPs Corbyn and Claudia Webbe, none of whom have removed their names.

Corbyn was suspended from Labour in 2020, before being readmitted but having the whip suspended, after responding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism within the party by claiming that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents”.

Keir Starmer told Nick Robinson on his Political Thinking podcast in November that he has not spoken to the MP for Islington North in over a year and that the ex-leader may not be able to stand as a Labour candidate at the next election.

Labour’s national executive committee considered a motion on restoring the Labour whip to the former leader last month. The motion was defeated with 23 votes against, 14 for and one abstention.

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