Is this what you call unity? Starmer is urged not to repeat mistakes of past in Corbyn suspension row
Supporters of long-serving MP demand that parliamentary whip is restored as Labour Party’s internal battle shows no sign of ending
Friday, 27th November 2020 — By Calum Fraser
Sir Keir Starmer serving on the opposition front bench during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party
LABOUR activists have warned the party that it risks opening up new wounds in the row over Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension.
In a letter to leader Sir Keir Starmer, senior members of the Islington North Constituency Labour Party, including its chairwoman, warned that he risked repeating “the self-destructive behaviour” of the past.
In it they call on Mr Starmer, who took over the party’s leadership from Mr Corbyn earlier this year, to “make good” on a promise to restore unity.
It came in the same week that some members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), Labour’s ruling body, “walked out” of an online meeting condemning Mr Starmer’s decision to withdraw the whip from Mr Corbyn after he was readmitted to the party.
They said the move “undermines” the decision by an NEC disciplinary panel to reinstate Mr Corbyn’s membership.
The Islington North MP – who has nearly 40 years of parliamentary service to his name and one of the largest majorities in the country – was at the centre of a quickfire suspension after his response to an investigation into how anti-semitism complaints were handled inside the party.
He later clarified his comments and said that the problem had not been overstated, and is now reportedly opening legal proceedings.
The youth wing of the party has also attacked the leadership over alleged attempts to suppress expressions of support for Mr Corbyn.
In the letter to Mr Starmer, the Islington North CLP members said: “You promised to restore the unity, integrity and authority of the Party.
“Amid the turmoil afflicting the Party around the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn and of constituency officers and members up and down the country, we urge you to make good on those promises.”
Last week’s Tribune
Mr Corbyn’s tenure at the top of the party was often marred by infighting, particularly among the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) openly at Westminster.
At one stage, he suffered a series of resignations on his shadow bench but then won a second leadership contest.
The letter sent to Mr Starmer added: “It is distressing to see some Labour MPs continuing, under the new leadership, to drag the reputation of the party through the mud and we now fear a repeat of the self-destructive behaviour that has cost the party so dear in recent years.”
Mr Corbyn had initially said “the scale of the problem” of antisemitism within the party was “dramatically overstated for political reasons” as part of his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report. The investigation ruled that the party had breached the Equalities Act three times over how cases were handled and that some members had been harassed.
Within 19 days his case was heard by a five-member NEC disciplinary panel which decided to readmit him into the party with a “reminder of conduct” warning.
This decision sparked fury from Jewish groups and some members of the PLP and Mr Starmer then decided not to restore the whip.
Islington North constituents came out last week in support of their MP. As the Tribune previously reported, a motion was unanimously passed at a meeting of the Islington North CLP calling for the whip to be restored.
The Islington South CLP met last week as well where a motion expressing “solidarity” with Mr Corbyn passed by 32 to 29.
In Mr Starmer’s own constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, members passed a motion supporting the leaders’s approach to Mr Corbyn.
Caledonian ward councillor Cllr Paul Convery said on Twitter: “I think many members are getting tired of the posturing.”
Islington South MP Emily Thornberry also reportedly said this week that she understood “entirely where Keir is coming from” as Mr Corbyn’s statement had “undermined” the EHRC report.
But, she added that she would “love to get him (Mr Corbyn) back into the Labour Party”.
Meanwhile, Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown told Mr Corbyn that he had been suspended from the whip for three months pending an investigation.
He has now demanded Mr Corbyn apologise “unequivocally, unambiguously and without reservation” for his original comments.