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Corbyn whip row: ‘Bring back our MP’

Fresh party support over Labour leadership’s ‘deplorable’ decision

20 November, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘Rest assured my number one priority now, as always, is to represent the people of Islington North’

JEREMY Corbyn was backed overwhelmingly by his local Labour Party this week as a revolt against the leadership’s decision to remove the whip grew.

Islington North Constituency Labour Party (CLP) met to consider an emergency motion on Wednesday night after their MP had the whip withheld from him that afternoon.

The motion, which passed by 73 to 0 with one abstention, stated that the members “deplore” Keir Starmer’s decision to remove the whip from Mr Corbyn and called on the Labour leader to reverse this in the “interest of fairness and Party unity”.

And in a dramatic move last night, the Town Hall leader, Cllr Richard Watts, broke his silence on the issue. He said:

“I welcome the decision to reinstate Jeremy to the Labour Party, but remain disappointed that this matter isn’t fully resolved as it should be.”

Keir Starmer

One ward branch chairperson, who attended the CLP meeting, said: “We need Jeremy to speak on our behalf.

“I don’t think this is just a Labour Party issue, I think it is a community issue. I stand in solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters, I just don’t understand why the party leadership would take power away from an MP and our community. We’re like a school without a head teacher now, like a ship without direction.”

Mr Corbyn’s supporters had been celebrating on Tuesday evening after a disciplinary panel of Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), decided to readmit him into the party 19 days after he was suspended for comments made in the wake of the publication of a report into antisemitism in Labour ranks. He was found guilty of a breach of the rules but only given a warning.

Then on Wednesday morning Mr Starmer released a statement accusing his predecessor of having “undermined and set back” progress on tackling antisemitism and blocked Mr Corbyn from regaining the Labour whip.

This triggered a furious response from Mr Corbyn’s supporters who accused the Holborn and St Pancras MP of “political interference” in disciplinary matters.

A statement calling for the decision to be reversed was signed by 27 MPs from the Socialist Campaign Group (SCG). It was endorsed by the Town Hall’s crime chief, Cllr Sue Lukes, and backbench councillors Tricia Clarke, Osh Gantly and Gulcin Ozdemir also called for the whip to be restored.

Town Hall leader, Cllr Richard Watts

It is understood a majority of the 4,000-strong Islington North members support Mr Corbyn, who has represented the area for 37 years.

Mr Corbyn joined the CLP meeting, which is made up of delegates from the ward branches, on Wednesday after the motion of support was passed.

Attendees reported that he said he was “shocked” to have been suspended and that he had received a call from chief whip Nick Brown that morning saying he had had the whip removed, which also caught him by surprise.

Mr Corbyn told the Tribune: “Rest assured my number one priority now, as always, is to represent the people of Islington North, who have entrusted me with the honour of being their Member of Parliament in the last 10 elections.”

In a statement on Tuesday, he said: “The publication of the EHRC report should have been a moment for the Labour Party to come together in a determination to address the shortcomings of the past and work as one to root out antisemitism in our own ranks and wider society.”

He also “clarified” previous comments when he said that concerns about antisemitism are “neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’”.

The EHRC report found that the Labour Party, under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, was responsible for breaches of the Equality Act relating to “political interference in antisemitism complaints”, “harassment” and failure to provide “adequate training” to those handling antisemitism complaints.

The watchdog’s recommen­dations include commission­ing an independent process to handle antisemitism complaints, acknowledging the effect political interference has had, and implementing clear rules to stop it happening again.

Labour has been given until December 10 to draft an action plan to implement the report’s recommendations, which is legally enforceable by the courts if not fulfilled.

Mr Starmer said: “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 antisemitism. In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn.”

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