Labour’s civil war continues as party suspends constituency chair
Deputy chair also sanctioned after motion supporting Jeremy Corbyn
03 December, 2020 — By Richard Osley
Sir Keir Starmer felt ‘undermined’
CAMDEN’S Labour ranks remained rigidly divided after the chair and vice-chair of the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency were suspended by the party.
Pete Firmin and Bridget Dunne were penalised for allowing a motion to pass at a meeting last week that supported former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is sitting without the party whip in the House of Commons.
Although readmitted to the party as a whole, Mr Corbyn, who has been an MP in Islington North for nearly 40 years, is being sanctioned because new leader Sir Keir Starmer says he had been “undermined”.
Mr Corbyn has initially responded to an investigation into complaints of anti-semitism in the party which said it had broken equality laws three times by saying that the problem had been “overstated” for political reasons.
In a snapshot of how some Camden members hold wildly different views on how Mr Corbyn has been treated, delegates in Mr Starmer’s home constituency of Holborn and St Pancras passed a motion supporting the leader over his decision to deprive Mr Corbyn of the whip.
Later, Hampstead and Kilburn members voted in the complete opposite way.
Jeremy Corbyn is fighting to get the Labour whip back
The suspensions relate to the claim that the two branch officials had broken an order from party general secretary David Evans not to talk about or pass motions relating to Mr Corbyn’s case. Organisers in Holborn and St Pancras say their motion backing Mr Starmer’s position was taken just before the regulations were passed and therefore could not face any similar action.
Supporters of the two suspended figures in Hampstead and Kilburn say that members had been “gagged”; one who was at last week’s meeting said: “It is perfectly possible to accept the criticisms of the EHRC [Equality and Human Rights Commission] and also see no point in punishing Jeremy Corbyn for months on end. That’s not going to bring an end to it. It will all just continue.”
Several members said they would not comment publicly because anybody’s whose name appears in print could find themselves at risk of disciplinary action.
But Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who was not logged on to the online meeting when the motion was discussed, said: “I am angry and saddened that clear instructions from Labour HQ were deliberately ignored at a meeting of my local CLP [Constituency Labour Party] in order to debate a motion that would obviously cause considerable hurt to the Jewish community.
“It is incumbent on all party officials, representatives and members to take the EHRC reports seriously and do everything they can to make Jewish people welcome into our party.”
Tulip Siddiq is ‘angry and saddened’
Members in Islington North passed a motion supporting Mr Corbyn, Labour’s national leader before Mr Starmer, but also did so before the order was issued. Last week, they were joined by members from Camden and Hackney at a demonstration in Finsbury Park demanding Mr Corbyn’s reinstatement.
Senior members of Islington North constituency went further by writing to Mr Starmer with what they said was an “appeal for unity” saying that Labour was at risk of repeating “the self-destructive behaviour of the past” with ongoing infighting.
They said that Mr Starmer’s choice of action “undermines” the NEC’s decision to readmit Mr Corbyn after he later said that the issue of anti-semitism was not overstated.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner told the Jewish Labour Movement conference on Saturday that she had been disappointed that motions were being passed on the issue and that “if I have to suspend thousands and thousands of members, we will do that.”