Former leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was suspended from the party on Thursday, October 29. The suspension, according to the party leadership, came in response to him challenging the report on anti-semitism inside Labour during his tenure as leader, by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), released on the same day. He was suspended pending an investigation by the party leadership.
After the release of the EHRC report on Thursday, Corbyn disputed several conclusions of the report. The report claimed that the Corbyn-led party leadership had violated the Equality Act on three counts, by failing to adequately train those who were handling anti-semitism cases, of political interference in cases of anti-semitism, and of “unlawful” harassment against an unspecified Jewish individual.
Corbyn had argued that his office and the party under his leadership worked “to speed up” the processes of dealing with anti-semitism, and that “the scale of the problem was dramatically overstated for political reasons.” Current party leader, Keir Starmer, objected to Corbyn’s statement and called for him to withdraw it. Corbyn refused and Starmer suspended him.
Starmer’s anti-left suppression not new
Corbyn had also recently criticized the Starmer’s leadership, for making concessions to what he has maintained to be exaggerated and politically motivated claims.
In June, earlier this year, Starmer asked his contender in the leadership race, Rebecca Long-Bailey, to stand down from her post as a minister in his shadow cabinet. This was done over an article that claimed that US police learned tactics such as kneeling on necks from the Israeli police, which the leadership deemed to be anti-semitic. Long-Bailey was endorsed by several Labour leaders who were part of the Corbyn shadow cabinet during the leadership race.
Later in July, the Starmer leadership also offered an apology and paid damages to ex-Labour staff members who had filed a defamation lawsuit against the party. The lawsuit was in response to the party leadership questioning the intentions behind them appearing in a television program, to apparently expose examples of anti-semitism within the party.
Corbyn had stated the settlement as “giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations” and that the settlements were a “political decision, not a legal one.” The settlement was also vehemently opposed by Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union (Unite), and called for a review of the union’s financial support to the Labour Party.
Talks of a split
The suspension has opened up a major faultline in the party as the pro-Corbyn and left-wing leadership have asked for the suspension to be revoked immediately. Several left-wing activists, trade union leaders, intellectuals and public personalities have condemned the suspension as a politically motivated move to exclude the “left” within Labour. It has also left British news media to speculate of a looming split between the “left” and “right” wings of the party.
Unite, which is Britain’s biggest trade union group with 1.5 million members and also Labour’s biggest donor, has extended support for Corbyn. McCluskey warned that the suspension would cause “chaos” within the party and divide it, costing it future elections.
The Socialist Campaign Group, which Corbyn is a part of and contributes 36 of the 200 Labour members of parliament, have also opposed the suspension and have stated that they shall work “tirelessly” for his reinstatement. Andrew Scattergood, co-chair of Momentum, a grassroots political group within Labour, stated that suspension is “a massive attack on the left by the new leadership and it should be immediately lifted in the interests of party unity.”
The Communist Party of Britain released a strong statement of support to Corbyn and highlighted that “the prospect of a left-led Labour government next time around, led by a socialist who opposes British imperialism’s foreign and military policies, prompted the ruling class to intensify efforts to discredit Corbyn and his allies.” The party called on socialists and Labour-affiliated trade unions to “unite in solidarity with Corbyn, demand his reinstatement and fight to reverse the drive to marginalise the left in the Labour Party.”
Tariq Ali, an intellectual and writer, wrote while condemning the suspension, that “Labour is being cleansed.” Ali wrote that those within the party that “support the Palestinians, who oppose Israel’s war crimes and daily harassment of the Palestinians are being told to keep quiet or face expulsion.” Ali went on to suggest that progressive groups within the party should seriously consider an alternative Socialist Party as an option outside of Labour.