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SIR Keir Starmer was facing a growing backlash today over his decision to withhold the Labour whip from Jeremy Corbyn despite his readmission to the party.
Constituency Labour parties and branches passed motions against the party leader’s “unwarranted intervention” in the process, while others passed votes of no confidence in Labour general secretary David Evans or Sir Keir himself.
It follows a letter from 14 members of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) to Mr Evans calling on him to “admonish” the Labour leader for “deliberate political interference in the handling of a complaint” that is “is precisely the type of action found to be unlawful indirect discrimination by the [Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)] report,” and a warning from Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery that Sir Keir ought not to imagine that his leadership could not be subject to a challenge.
Mr Lavery slammed what he said looked like a “personal and political vendetta” on Sir Keir’s part and accused him of running Labour like a “tin-pot dictatorship” by overriding the NEC and he drew attention to the reality of a mass exodus of socialists from the party, pointing to the decision by Thelma Walker, former MP for Colne Valley, to quit over the furore.
Though Labour has not released figures on members quitting the party, figures for the numbers of eligible voters in the recent NEC election compared with when Sir Keir was elected in April indicate it has lost almost 60,000 members — more than 10 per cent — since then, with 495,961 remaining compared to 552,835 in spring.
If forced to stand again for the leadership Sir Keir could struggle to convince members that he remains committed to the platform of continuing Mr Corbyn’s socialist policies and uniting the party which he won on.
However, it would be difficult to force a contest, since a challenger would need to be nominated by 20 per cent of current MPs, meaning 40 or 41.
Just 32 signed a Socialist Campaign Group statement condemning Sir Keir’s refusal to restore the whip this week.
Mr Corbyn was suspended following the publication of an EHRC report into Labour’s handling of anti-semitism complaints, after he said that the scale of anti-semitism in Labour had been exaggerated by his political opponents.
An NEC panel found he had broken no rules but Sir Keir said the following day the whip would not be restored.
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