CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Labour constituency organisers ask party to lift ‘stifling’ rules on Corbyn debate

Corbyn tells campaigners that there is a battle for 'free speech'

10 December, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have been organising ‘solidarity’ events in Finsbury Park

JEREMY Corbyn has broken cover to speak out against the new Labour leadership’s actions, telling supporters that there is a fight for “the right of free speech in the party”.

The Islington North MP, as he battles to have the whip restored in the House of Commons, told a group who had gathered to show their support that they should also swing behind constituency officials who have been suspended for commenting and passing motions on his case.

The New Journal reported last week how Hampstead and Kilburn’s constituency Labour Party chair and vice-chair had both been suspended after a motion was passed in support of Mr Corbyn.

Last night (Wednesday) chairs and secretaries from 124 constituencies across the UK wrote to the party’s general secretary

David Evans warning that debate was being “stifled” and asking for rules banning discussion on issues like Mr Corbyn’s case to be lifted. Members from Hampstead and Kilburn, Hornsey and Wood Green and Brent Central were among those involved.

“Democratically discussing the issues of party business that concern our members helps us develop and motivate our local party,” the letter said.

The motion in Hampstead and Kilburn was in contrast to Holborn and St Pancras, the home constituency of Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, where the CLP passed a motion supporting the action taken against Mr Corbyn. Organisers say their motion was allowed to cover the issue because it came before new party rules were enforced.

Mr Corbyn told the Hands Off  Our MP meeting last week – held over videocall: “We together will all campaign on this thing and make sure we win, not just for me but for the right of free speech within our party.”

He added: “We cam­paign also for the need of other people who have sadly been suspended because they spoke out at constituency meetings all over the country. I want to see them all back in the party as well.”

Mr Corbyn ‘zoomed’ into a ‘Hands Off Our MP’ meeting

Hampstead and Kilburn chair Peter Firmin and deputy Bridget Dunne are the two suspended officials.

MP Tulip Siddiq said last week the motion caused offence to the Jewish community. Both sides of the argument have different accounts over how the meeting was handled.

Mr Corbyn has been readmitted to the party after initially being suspended over his response to the findings of an investigation into how complaints of antisemitism were handled during his time as party leader.

But Mr Starmer is not allowing Mr Corbyn to sit with Labour’s other MPs at Westminster and says he has been “undermined”.

Mr Corbyn “clarified” earlier remarks when he said that the problem had not been overstated.

Keir Starmer has removed the parliamentary whip from Mr Corbyn, his former front bench colleague at the House of Commons

Islington Council leader Richard Watts sent a message of support to last week’s meeting which said: “His work has continued to put his constituents first.”

Several members in Camden this week said they feared putting their thoughts in print in case they would be the next to be suspended.

The party’s national deputy leader Angela Rayner has already said she is prepared to suspend “thousands” if members and local organisers do not follow the rules.

Mr Corbyn, who passed on the reins of the leadership to Mr Starmer earlier this year, meanwhile is preparing possible legal action to win back the whip.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found Labour had broken equality laws three times in its handling of antisemitism complaints. Mr Starmer has apologised to the Jewish community for the finding.

Chief whip Nick Brown has sent a letter to Mr Corbyn asking him “unreservedly apologise” for comments he made on social media after the EHRC was published.

Mr Corbyn’s supporters have now twice gathered in Finsbury Park for a ‘solidarity stroll’.

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