The massive Jeremy Corbyn row explained for anyone who doesn’t fully understand it

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3 min read
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) alongside shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer during a press conference in central London.
Sir Keir Starmer has removed the Labour whip from Jeremy Corbyn (right) (pa)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has refused to restore the whip to his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, intensifying a row over Corbyn’s response to an anti-Semitism report.

The move to block Corbyn from sitting as a Labour MP, which came a day after the former Labour leader was readmitted to the party, has sparked a furious backlash from Corbyn supporters.

Corbyn, who was suspended from the party after saying the scale of anti-Semitism in Labour when he was in charge had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”, was readmitted by Labour’s National Executive Committee on Tuesday after he issued a clarification.

His initial statement came in response to a report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that found the party had broken the law in its handling of racism complaints.

Starmer said as he declined to restore the whip to Corbyn on Wednesday that his predecessor had “undermined” the party’s work to restore trust and confidence in its ability to tackle anti-Semitism.

Watch: Jeremy Corbyn will not have Labour whip restored, Sir Keir Starmer says

What does 'removing the whip’ mean? Is Corbyn still an MP?

Corbyn will continue to sit as an independent MP and will not be part of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Read more: Corbyn accused of 'permanent denial' of anti-Semitism after releasing statement

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home on November 18, 2020 in London, England. Corbyn, former Labour Leader and MP for Islington North was suspended by the current Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, for downplaying the findings of the the Equalities and Human Rights Commission after it published a report into anti-semitism in the Labour Party. It found that the party had broken the law under Jeremy Corbyn's tenure as leader. 19 days after the suspension it has been overturned after a meeting of Labour's National Executive Committee with Starmer refusing to re-instate the party whip. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn issued a clarification to his previous statement (getty)

Why has Starmer not allowed him to sit as a Labour MP?

The Labour leader said in a statement: “Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle anti-Semitism.

“In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review.”

What happens next?

Starmer’s decision was welcomed by those who hoped to draw a line under the Corbyn era, but prompted an angry response from members who remain loyal to the former leader.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the action was “just plain wrong” and would cause “more division and disunity in the party”.

Diane Abbott, who served as shadow home secretary under Corbyn, said removing the whip “raises serious questions of due process”.

Fellow former shadow cabinet minister Richard Burgon said: “Jeremy should immediately have the whip restored.

“At a time of national crisis, division in the Labour party serves nobody but the Tory Gov’t.”

Watch: Starmer questioned over Corbyn's Labour return

But Starmer’s action was welcomed by veteran Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who said: “Yesterday has shown once again just how broken and unjust the existing complaints system is.

“It has caused untold hurt and anguish across the Jewish community, undermined progress made and made me question my own place in the party.

“As Corbyn has refused to himself accept the findings of the EHRC report, refused to apologise for his actions and refused to take any responsibility, withholding the whip is the right decision.”

Read more: Corbyn allies' fury at decision to block ex-leader returning as Labour MP

The decision also won the support of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an elected body that represents the Jewish community.

Its president Marie van der Zyl said Labour’s disciplinary process is “clearly still not fit for purpose” but that Starmer had “taken the appropriate leadership decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn”.

Labour Against Anti-Semitism, an organisation started by party members, said Starmer’s move was a “welcome gesture”, but criticised the “disgraceful events” that saw the former leader’s suspension from the party ended.