UK’s Labour Party suspends former leader Jeremy Corbyn in antisemitism row
The UK’s Opposition Labour Party on Thursday suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn from its ranks after a report by the country’s human rights watchdog held the party “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” during his time in charge.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which had launched an investigation into antisemitism within the party following a string of complaints, found that Labour had broken the law in its failure to handle antisemitism, or anti-Jewish, complaints and there were “serious failings” by its leadership at the time.
However, in his reaction to the report, Corbyn said the number of complaints made during his tenure were “dramatically overstated”.
“One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated,” said Corbyn, in reference to the report.
A Labour Party spokesperson issued a statement soon after to announce that Corbyn had been suspended from the party.
“In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation. He has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party,” the spokesperson said.
In his reaction to the EHRC report, current Opposition leader Keir Starmer had indicated that a denial stance to the report would not be tolerated, without any specific references to Corbyn.
Starmer said: “And if – after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report, there are still those who think there’s no problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party. That it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack.
“Then, frankly, you are part of the problem too. And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either.” Earlier, the EHRC had served the Labour Party with an unlawful act notice after an investigation into antisemitism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found it responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.
Its investigation, launched in May last year, identified serious failings in the party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints.
The party was found responsible for three breaches of the UK’s Equality Act (2010) relating to political interference in antisemitism complaints; failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints; and harassment.
“The equality body’s analysis points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it,” the EHRC said.
Starmer said he is “truly sorry” for all the pain and grief that has been caused and apologised to Jewish people who had been driven out of the party and Parliament.
He said: “I know how hard these last few years have been, how painful today will be, and how hard you have to fight to hear your voices heard.
“I hear you, and I can promise you this: I will act. Never again will Labour let you down. Never again will we fail to tackle anti-Semitism and never again will we lose your trust.
“We will implement all recommendations, and we will implement them in full.” Some Labour members of Parliament who had distanced themselves from the party over the issue have since responded positively to the Labour leader’s reaction to the damning EHRC findings.