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THE shocking suspension of Jeremy Corbyn by Labour’s leadership is a “massive attack on the left” that undermines the party’s response to anti-semitism, socialists warned today.
Left-wing voices rallied around the former Labour leader with the party’s Socialist Campaign Group vowing to fight tirelessly for his reinstatement.
Mr Corbyn was suspended pending investigation of his comments after the release of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report into allegations of anti-semitism in the party.
The report concluded that the party was responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” relating to the handling of complaints of anti-semitism and comments made by Labour members and politicians.
Responding to the report, Mr Corbyn said that “anyone claiming there is no anti-semitism in the Labour Party is wrong,” but that the “scale of the problem was overstated for political reasons by our opponents.”
Within hours of the report’s release today, Labour announced that the former leader had been suspended “in light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently.”
Mr Corbyn said he would “strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me” and said he would “continue to support a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.”
His suspension sparked outcry among Jewish socialists, the Labour left and other left-wing campaigners.
Andrew Scattergood, co-chair of pro-Corbyn Labour organisation Momentum, said: “The EHRC report demands serious consideration but the suspension of [Jeremy Corbyn] risks politicising and undermining Labour’s response to anti-semitism.
“It is a massive attack on the left by the new leadership and it should be immediately lifted in the interests of party unity.”
The Socialist Campaign Group – which includes Labour MPs John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon, Ian Lavery and Rebecca Long Bailey – said it “firmly opposed” the suspension. “We will work tirelessly for his reinstatement,” it said.
The EHRC investigation was launched in May 2019 after formal complaints by the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement.
The report highlighted that discrimination was not isolated to the Labour Party but was shared across various political parties.
Labour has promised to implement all of its recommendations.
The commission said it had identified three breaches of the Equalities Act relating to political interference in anti-semitism complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-semitism complaints, and harassment.
The charge of “unlawful harassment” came after comments made by former London mayor Ken Livingstone and councillor Pam Bromley.
The report also found “serious failings” in the process of handling anti-semitism complaints and criticised the party for failing to carry out recommendations in previous reports into the issue.
The EHRC report blamed these failings on the Labour leadership, despite a party report leaked earlier this year which suggested that complaints of anti-semitism were deliberately mishandled to sabotage Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
The leaked 850-page party report included WhatsApp messages from senior Labour officials and people within the legal and governance unit who were opposed to Corbyn’s leadership.
Writing in the Guardian earlier this week, Mr Corbyn’s former head of staff Karrie Murphy said the former leader had ordered that the 2016 Chakrabarti Inquiry’s recommendations to tackle anti-semitism and racism within Labour be carried out.
But Ms Murphy wrote that they were not implemented — “despite assurances from the party HQ and the then general secretary Iain McNicol.”
The complaints procedure was overhauled in 2018 when Mr McNicol, a vocal anti-Corbyn figure, was replaced by Jennie Formby.
Commenting on the EHRC’s report today, Ms Formby said that as a result of the changes made, “Labour’s previously unfit processes were transformed, becoming more rapid, robust and more independent than any other political party.”
Jewish members of the Labour Party also rallied behind Mr Corbyn. David Rosenberg, a socialist historian and Jewish member of Islington North CLP, said Mr Corbyn was a “100 per cent solid ally in the fight against anti-semitism and fascism.”
Mr Rosenberg described the report as “thin, repetitive and legalistic,” adding that it “rests on two cases of members who were ultimately expelled under Corbyn’s leadership.
“While Labour tears itself apart on these matters, anti-semitism and racism generally in British society are increasing under the auspices of the party of the hostile environment — which the EHRC has shown no desire to investigate.”
Jewish Voice for Labour’s (JVL) Mike Cushman said the report gave no basis for the suspension of Mr Corbyn and called for it to be rescinded immediately.
JVL added that the report did not consider “hurtful” allegations of anti-semitism against Jewish Labour members and “the abuse they suffered, often by non-Jews.”
“The report does not identify anti-semitic actions by Corbyn and the action against him is vindictive,” Mr Cushman said.
“The report identifies no instance of Jewish members being discriminated against and does not uphold the repeated claims by enemies of the party of ‘institutional anti-semitism’.”
“JVL hopes the report will lead to what we have called for many years: a transparent complaints procedure fair to all involved and trusted by all parties. This must be run by the party and not outsourced.”
Dave Ward, general secretary of Labour-affiliated postal workers’ union CWU, said Mr Starmer’s political decision to suspend “a lifelong anti-racist campaigner flies in the face of the report.”
“It’s fundamentally wrong and needs to change,” he said.
Stop the War Coalition, of which Mr Corbyn is a founding member, said in a statement: “We totally reject any accusations of anti-semitism against him, or that the Labour Party was anti-semitic under his leadership.
“Despite the headlines and spin put on the EHRC report, we note that the contents overall would not support any such claim.”
The party is now legally obliged to draft an action plan by December 10 to tackle the unlawful behaviour identified in the report.
Leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters: “Under my leadership, zero-tolerance of anti-semitism will mean precisely that. If you’re anti-semitic, you should be nowhere near this party. And we’ll make sure you’re not.
“And if after all the pain, all the grief and all the evidence in this report there are still those who think there’s no problem with anti-semitism in the Labour Party — that it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack — then, frankly, you are part of the problem too. And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either.”
“This was a day for our party to move forward as one to defeat the evil of antisemitism,” said Unite leader Len McCluskey.
“However, the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn has threatened that opportunity.
“The suspension appears to fly in the face of one of the important recommendations made by the EHRC - and which Keir himself said he would implement in full and immediately - which is to remove the leader’s office from party investigations.
“But it is also an act of grave injustice which, if not reversed, will create chaos within the party and in doing so compromise Labour’s chances of a general election victory. A split party will be doomed to defeat.”
A solidarity rally with Jeremy Corbyn is being organised in Manchester this weekend, with organisers calling on supporters to gather safely in Piccadilly Gardens from 1pm.
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