IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Supporters rail at Corbyn’s suspension

Labour Party faces demand to reinstate former leader from Jewish members in constituency he’s represented for 37 years

06 November, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Jeremy Corbyn at a youth crime meeting with Sir Keir Starmer and Diane Abbott during his time as leader

JEWISH members of the Labour Party in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency have called for him to be reinstated following his quickfire suspension last week.

Amid unrest over the manner in which the Islington North MP was removed from the party after nearly 40 years in parliament, the group said they had felt “enduring distress” at watching him face accusations.

Their experiences had been “ignored”, they said in a letter to the Tribune, in the wake of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’s investigation into how Labour dealt with complaints of anti-semitism.

It said there had been three breaches of the Equality Act, including its finding that there had been political interference.

Mr Corbyn was suspended after saying he thought that the scale of the problem in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by the media and opponents “inside and outside the party”.

Mr Corbyn, who stepped down as the party’s leader earlier this year, has received support in Islington North where he holds one of the largest majorities in the House of Commons but now sits as an independent MP.

Jeremy Corbyn

He is appealing against the suspension and a number of the borough’s ward branches met on Wednesday night, over Zoom video conferencing technology, and passed motions expressing their support for him.

“Right now, we are devastated that this process has climaxed in the suspension of our cherished MP and former leader,” the open letter from Jewish Labour members in Islington North said.

“Over the years, he has created mutually supportive relations with the practising Jewish community in Islington, attending numerous official Jewish events in North London.”

The signatures are printed in this week’s letters page.

They added: “If Starmer [Sir Keir, new party leader] wants to follow the suggestions of the EHRC, he will reinstate Corbyn forthwith.

“This is because that document explicitly protects freedom of expression, with protection under Article 10 (including enhanced protection for elected politicians) for Labour Party members who ‘express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law’.”

Sir Keir Starmer

They also asked to meet Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner “so they can hear the whole range of Jewish perspectives within the Labour Party”.

Mr Starmer promised, when he first be­came leader that he would take a hard line on accusations of antisemitism.

The party had come under heavy criticism from groups like Jewish Labour Movement whose complaints sparked the EHRC investigation.

The JLM said it supported the suspension, adding “denial of antisemitism is part of the problem.”

But Mr Corbyn’s supporters are pointing to other statements he made last week in which he said he had always been determined to “root out the cancer of antisemitism” and “anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in Labour is wrong”.

Mr Starmer, who sat on the Labour frontbench for almost the entirety of Mr Corbyn’s time as leader, said on Thursday that the EHRC report was a “day of shame” as more than 70 incidents of antisemitism were detailed in the report and he accepted the findings in full.

He said in a round of interviews the day after the EHRC report was published that the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn had been made by new General Secretary David Evans, but the party has faced questions over whether he really acted alone.

Mr Corbyn told the Tribune that he was “shocked and disappointed” after he found out he had been suspended by a journalist who confronted him as he left the Brickworks Community Centre in Crouch Hill on Thursday.

Councillor Phil Graham

The majority of Islington Labour councillors have kept quiet on the issue, including the group’s leader and deputy leader.

An order went out from the national party for councillors not to be quoted on the issue. Yet, some have spoken out.

Bunhill ward councillor Councillor Phil Graham told the Tribune: “I believe that we should be told by the party under what rule Jeremy has been suspended.”

Cllr Graham also cited article 10 quoted in the EHRC report.

He added: “In view of this, and the fact that Kier Starmer has himself discussed in the media the suspension on several occasions I think the decision to suspend Jeremy should be reviewed and reversed.”

St George’s ward councillor Tricia Clarke took to Twitter to share a petition, that has more than 60,000 signatures, calling on the leadership to reinstate Mr Corbyn.

The Labour Party was approached but declined to comment.

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