'A retrograde step': Jeremy Corbyn's reinstatement met with criticism

17 November 2020, 19:56 | Updated: 17 November 2020, 20:36

Jeremy Corbyn's reinstatement has been criticised
Jeremy Corbyn's reinstatement has been criticised. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Jeremy Corbyn's readmission to Labour just weeks after he was suspended for saying the scale of anti-Semitism in the party was "dramatically overstated" has been met with fierce criticism.

The former opposition leader is understood to have been allowed back into the party following a meeting of the disputes panel of the ruling National Executive Committee.

He had the whip withdrawn and was suspended from the party last month over his response to a damning Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report which found that Labour had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

Mr Corbyn had claimed that while "one anti-Semite is one too many" 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".

He was suspended after his successor as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that people who believed it was "exaggerated, or a factional attack" were "part of the problem" and "should be nowhere near the Labour Party either".

But Mr Corbyn acknowledged ahead of a meeting of the disputes committee on Tuesday that concerns around anti-Semitism in Labour were not "exaggerated".

Read more: Sir Keir Starmer tells LBC decision to oust Corbyn from Labour 'wasn't political'

Read more: Rachel Riley: Jeremy Corbyn 'trying to making himself a martyr' over anti-Semitism row

He revealed he had given a statement to the party in an attempt to "clear up any confusion" over his initial response and a broadcast interview given in the wake of the report.

Following the decision, Mr Corbyn tweeted: "I am pleased to have been reinstated in the Labour Party and would like to thank party members, trade unionists and all who have offered solidarity.

"Our movement must now come together to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government."

Sir Keir Starmer has been criticised over the decision
Sir Keir Starmer has been criticised over the decision. Picture: PA

His successor as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: "I know that this has been another painful day for the Jewish community and those Labour members who have fought so hard to tackle antisemitism.   I know the hurt that has been caused and the trauma people have felt."

He added: "I will not allow a focus on one individual to prevent us from doing the vital work of tackling antisemitism. When I stood as leader of the Labour Party, I was clear that my first priority would be to root out antisemitism. It still is."

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said the lifting of Jeremy Corbyn's suspension showed "the Jewish community has been conned".

He said: "The shambolic suspension and readmission of Jeremy Corbyn appears to have been nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow of the EHRC's (Equality and Human Rights Commission) report last month, which forensically analysed the hundreds of pages of evidence and legal argument we submitted as complainant.

"That report condemned Mr Corbyn and his allies for presiding over the institutionalisation of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

"By readmitting Mr Corbyn, the Labour Party has once again excused anti-Semitism and proved itself unwilling to address it."

He said the suspension should have remained in place until the CAA's complaints against Mr Corbyn had been investigated.

Conservative Party co-chairman Amanda Milling accused Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of sending a message that "the shameful anti-Semitism of recent years should be allowed to continue".

She said: "Keir Starmer is failing to stand up for British Jews.

"By allowing Jeremy Corbyn back into the Labour Party he is sending a message that the shameful anti-Semitism of recent years should be allowed to continue."

Unite union boss Len McCluskey said Jeremy Corbyn's readmission to Labour is the "correct, fair and unifying decision".

Mr McCluskey, an ally of the former leader, said Labour must now implement the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommendations and "move forward" as a party.

He said: "As a party we now move forward to implement the EHRC's recommendations and redouble our efforts to inspire voters about Keir's 10 pledges and the transformation of our nations into fairer places for our people.

"Only Labour, united and strong, can bring this about."

Labour MP Margaret Hodge tweeted: "This is a broken outcome from a broken system.

"A factional, opaque and dysfunctional complaints process could never reach a fair conclusion.

"This is exactly why the EHRC instructed Labour to setup an independent process!

"I simply cannot comprehend why it is acceptable for Corbyn to be a Labour MP if he thinks antisemitism is exaggerated and a political attack, refuses to apologise, never takes responsibility for his actions & rejects the findings of the EHRC report.

"Ridiculous."

Labour MP Neil Coyle, a prominent critic of Jeremy Corbyn, suggested the Equality and Human Rights Commission "may not be done" with the party in the wake of his readmittance.

He said: "The EHRC found the Labour Party guilty of unlawful discrimination and instructed us to implement a new, independent complaints process and end political interference.

"That could not be more demonstrably necessary. The EHRC may not be done with Labour yet."

The Jewish Labour Movement said it appeared Jeremy Corbyn's case had been "expedited" by a "factionally aligned political committee".

In a statement the group said: "It is extraordinary that just weeks after the EHRC found that the Labour Party has discriminated against Jewish members through political manipulation of the disciplinary process, it appears that the party expedited this case for hearing by a factionally aligned political committee.

"After his failure of leadership to tackle anti-Semitism, so clearly set out in the EHRC's report, any reasonable and fair-minded observer would see Jeremy Corbyn's statement today as insincere and wholly inadequate."

The group said "today's decision will only embolden those who agreed with him" when he "downplayed the reality of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party".

"Once again we find ourselves having to remind the Labour Party that Jeremy Corbyn is not the victim of Labour anti-Semitism - Jewish members are."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the decision to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn was a "retrograde step" for Labour.

Its president Marie van der Zyl, Jewish leadership chairman Jonathan Goldstein and community security trust chief executive Mark Gardner said: "Today's decision is a retrograde step for the party in its relations with the Jewish community. Jeremy Corbyn's dismissive approach to the damning EHRC's findings rightly saw him suspended.

"For Jeremy Corbyn's allies on the NEC to expedite his case whilst hundreds of other cases languished under his tenure, and his confected non-apology earlier today adds insult to injury.

"This politicisation of the process goes against what the EHRC recommended just last month. Labour's mountain to climb to win back the trust of our community just got higher."