Corbyn allies appeal for unity as they renew call for him to be reinstated

31 October 2020, 07:06

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in North London Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in North London
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in North London Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in North London. Picture: PA

Senior Labour MPs on the left of the party have appealed for unity as they renewed their call for Jeremy Corbyn to be reinstated as a member.

Former shadow cabinet ministers Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Richard Burgon made the plea after the ex-leader was suspended over his response to a damning anti-Semitism report.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the party broke equality law when Mr Corbyn was in charge, but he refused to fully accept the watchdog's findings and said anti-Semitism had been "dramatically overstated for political reasons".

Read more: Keir Starmer explains decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn from Labour

Read more: 'Jeremy Corbyn was warned in advance over EHRC statement'

Former shadow chancellor Mr McDonnell, addressing a virtual Stand With Corbyn rally organised by campaign group Momentum, appealed to members not to leave Labour or launch a "civil war".

He said: "My appeal is for unity, for clarification that we are all on the same page when it comes to wanting to tackle anti-Semitism and the way that we do that is all of us, we stay in the party - this is our Labour Party.

"Secondly, we have lifted the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn. Thirdly, let's agree across the whole party to launch a programme of anti-racist campaigning and tackling anti-Semitism wherever it rears its head."

Meanwhile, The Guardian has reported pro-Corbyn Labour MPs have discussed resigning from the party and sitting as independents amid fears leader Sir Keir Starmer might lead a "mass purge" of the left.

Former party chair and Corbyn ally Ian Lavery said there were concerns Labour's suspension of Mr Corbyn was a "war cry" that could force some MPs to leave.

"I have heard MPs saying that if this is a purge of the left and things aren't resolved and continue in the same direction, then they would have to check their conscience to see whether they could stay as Labour MPs until the end of this parliament," Mr Lavery told the paper, adding: "There is a possibility of people moving to becoming independent."

Ms Abbott, who served as shadow home secretary under Mr Corbyn, said it was "vital" that the former leader was reinstated and warned that his suspension would "not help us win the next election".

And she said: "The priority right now for everyone in our party is to come together and successfully improve the way that Labour handles racism and anti-Semitism."

Ex-shadow justice secretary Mr Burgon said infighting "serves no-one but the Tory government", and former Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said he believed Mr Corbyn could be reinstated.

Their comments came after Len McCluskey, the boss of the Unite union, a major financial backer for Labour, warned the suspension was an "act of grave injustice" that could cause a split and doom the party to defeat.

But Sir Keir insisted that there is "no reason for a civil war" and denied there was a "schism" within the party.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "I would say to everyone in the Labour Party that there is no need for a war or a split on this.

"The vast majority of our members and supporters were shocked by the report's findings yesterday and want us to move on in a constructive way implementing the recommendations, that's what should be focused on, that is the way to unite the party."

Mr Corbyn issued a statement to accuse the media and his political opponents of having overstated the scale of the problem and say "I do not accept all" of the EHRC findings.

The EHRC concluded the party was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination, and found evidence of "political interference" in the complaints process by Mr Corbyn's office.

The former leader has said he will "strongly contest" the decision to suspend him pending an investigation, which also meant the Islington North MP had the Labour whip removed in Parliament.