Corbyn tells supporters his battle is about their ‘right to free speech’ in the party

Islington North MP thanks group during videocall meeting, as battle to have the whip restored goes on

Friday, 4th December 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Jeremy Corbyn at Zoom meeting

Mr Corbyn ‘zooms’ into the meeting

JEREMY Corbyn broke cover this week to speak out against the new Labour leadership’s actions.

The Islington North MP, who is battling to have the whip restored in the House of Commons, told a group who had gathered to show him their support that it was a fight for “the right of free speech within the party”.

He has been readmitted to the party after initially being suspended over his response to the findings of an investigation into how complaints of antisemitism were handled during his time as party leader.

But his successor Sir Keir Starmer is not allowing Mr Corbyn to sit with Labour’s other MPs at Westminster and says he has been “undermined”.

Mr Corbyn “clarified” earlier remarks when he said that the problem had not been overstated.

In the wake of his suspension, orders went out to local Labour branches refusing to allow officials and councillors to pass motions supporting Mr Corbyn or for his case to be debated.

This rule led to the suspension of two senior officials in neighbouring Camden this week.

Several councillors, including the Town Hall leader Cllr Richard Watts, backed Mr Corbyn at the Hands Off Our MP meeting on Wednesday, held online using Zoom videocall technology, despite warnings from HQ that members are being closely monitored.

Sir Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn

“We together will all campaign on this thing and make sure we win, not just for me but for the right of free speech within our party,” Mr Corbyn, who has been the Islington North MP for almost 40 years, said.

“I want to say a huge thank you for all the support I have received since October 29 when that decision was made to suspend my party membership, then later on the decision was made not to readmit me to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

“I obviously contest both those decisions very very strongly.”

He added: “We cam­paign also for the need of other people who have sadly been suspended because they spoke out at constituency meetings all over the country. I want to see them all back in the party as well. That is what I am absolutely determined to achieve.”

He then outlined his commitment to Islington North and its “diverse community”.

“We should never ever allow or enable racism in any form whatsoever anywhere in our community, our party, our society or our world,” he said before detailing the “horrific” persecution that the Jewish community has faced in Europe including the Holocaust.

Cllr Richard Watts did not attend the meeting on Wednesday but his message of support was read out: “I have stayed working closely with Jeremy as a constituency MP during this period and his work has continued to put his constituents first.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Jeremy as our fantastic local Labour MP, alongside you all, to fight this Tory government and stand up for what we believe in.”

Clerkenwell councillor Matt Nathan, speaking in his capacity as a representative of the Socialist campaign group of Labour councillors, told the meeting: “If you have left the Labour Party or are thinking of leaving the Labour Party for goodness sake stay, stay and fight. Don’t leave, organise.

“Jeremy has fought in much worse conditions than this, there have been periods in history when the left has been even more atomised and marginalised. We are stronger than we think.”

He added: “Today we are fighting for Jeremy, and tomorrow we will fight for each other.”

Hillrise ward Labour councillor Michelline Ngongo praised Mr Corbyn’s work supporting her as she settled in the area as a refugee from the Congo.

Chief whip Nick Brown has sent a letter to Mr Corbyn asking him “unreservedly apologise” for comments he made on social media after the Equality and Human Rights Commission report was published as well as removing them. Mr Corbyn is yet to do this.

Mr Starmer whipped his MPs to abstain against the government’s coronavirus tier system plans on Wednesday.

Mr Corbyn, sitting as an independent, voted against the government’s plan.

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