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LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer sparked a furious backlash today after he blocked Jeremy Corbyn from sitting as a Labour MP despite his readmission as a party member.
MPs, unions and left-wing Jewish groups expressed outrage at the move.
Mr Corbyn was reinstated as a Labour member by the national executive committee (NEC) on Tuesday, three weeks after he was suspended over his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report.
Sir Keir said this morning that he would not restore the whip, meaning the former party leader will continue to sit as an independent MP and will not be part of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
Sir Keir said: “I’m the leader of the Labour Party, but I’m also the leader of the PLP.
“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 anti-semitism.”
The decision comes despite the very same EHRC report stating that “it is not legitimate for the leadership to influence, make recommendations, or make decisions on complaints outside of the formal complaints process.”
Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) declared: “There is no justification for preventing him from rejoining the PLP to represent the people of Islington North as the Labour MP they elected.
“This is precisely the political interference condemned by the EHRC. That the NEC’s decision should be effectively reversed the next day is extraordinary.”
The group warned that Sir Keir has “forgotten his commitment to creating unity in the party with this divisive act” and said they are “dismayed that he has allowed himself to be pressured by organisations such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews and others that are not Labour supporters.”
“While professing to support ‘the Jewish community’, Keir Starmer has once again chosen to apply a stereotype of Jewish people as being of one undifferentiated opinion,” the statement continued.
“He has failed to recognise Jewish diversity by ignoring JVL and other Jewish and non-Jewish Party members who support Jeremy Corbyn and the socialist policies he promoted.”
The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs warned that not restoring the whip is “wrong and damaging to the Labour Party.”
In a statement signed by 32 MPs, the group said: “This decision and the division it causes severely undermines efforts to unite to defeat anti-semitism and fully implement the EHRC recommendations and to challenge and defeat this disastrous Conservative government. It should be swiftly reversed.”
Mr Corbyn’s former shadow cabinet members John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon, among the 32, hit out at the decision.
Mr McDonnell warned it would cause more division and disunity in the party.
Mr Abbott tweeted that “removing the whip from @jeremycorbyn now raises serious questions of due process” along with the hashtag #IstandwithJeremyCorbyn.
Mr Burgon wrote: “Jeremy Corbyn has rightly been reinstated to the Labour Party. That decision must be respected and implemented across the Labour Party.
“Jeremy should immediately have the whip restored. At a time of national crisis, division in the Labour party serves nobody but the Tory government.”
Former Stroud MP David Drew took aim at the parliamentary party after Sir Keir indicated it would not be applying the disciplinary panel’s finding.
The PLP was “not fit for purpose,” he tweeted. “It is totally undemocratic and unrepresentative of the wider labour movement. Labour MPs used it as a vehicle for self-aggrandisement and personal attacks on those they didn’t agree with and weekly meetings often had a horrible atmosphere.”
Momentum co-chairman Andrew Scattergood called it a “blatant political attack” on the left of the party.
He said: “A disciplinary panel found that Jeremy Corbyn had not broken any rule, so now Keir Starmer is making it up as he goes along.
“The recent NEC election results show that there is a clear socialist majority amongst the membership.
“They can’t remove the whip from our movement.”
Momentum has launched a petition calling for the whip to be restored to Mr Corbyn, which received over 1,000 signatures in the first few hours.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said he was “disappointed” Mr Corbyn had not had the whip restored.
“Jeremy has called for the recommendations of the EHRC to be implemented so that anti-semitism is rooted out once and for all. And that is right.
“We need to look to the future, and come together, to take on the Tories and rebuild Britain after the ravages of the pandemic. We do not want — or need — factional infighting.”
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