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

9 November 2020, 09:55 | Updated: 9 November 2020, 11:34

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Sir Keir Starmer has told LBC the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party "wasn't political" and that it has his "complete support".

The Labour leader was taking calls from LBC listeners for his monthly Call Keir phone-in when a former Corbyn supporter accused Sir Keir of ousting his predecessor for political reasons.

Starmer insisted the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn was based purely on the findings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and that he stands by it "completely".

"It's quite something when the EHRC, which was set up by a Labour government, finds the Labour Party in breach of the law that the Labour government passed," he said.

"In those circumstances, I think it's very important to take tough decisions.

"It wasn't a political decision, it was a decision of the general secretary. But I'm not shying away, I completely support that decision."

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

Watch: Keir Starmer explains decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn from Labour

The Labour leader was answering callers' questions for Call Keir with Nick Ferrari
The Labour leader was answering callers' questions for Call Keir with Nick Ferrari. Picture: LBC

He explained to the caller, Mike, and LBC presenter Nick Ferrari that he was "very clear" when standing for Labour leadership that he wanted to unify the party and to "stop the factional fighting".

"I was also clear that we would tackle anti-Semitism and for me, that meant dealing with those who are anti-Semitic and those who say or do things that are anti-Semitic," he added.

"But also those that pretend its exaggerated and doesn't really exist and both of those things have to be tackled and that's what we're determined to do in light of the commission report."

Watch: Starmer to speak to Chancellor over '3 million excluded' from Covid support

Watch in full: Call Keir - Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer takes your calls

Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour last month after his response to an investigation into anti-Semitism which found Labour had committed unlawful acts of discrimination against Jewish people.

The EHRC investigation found evidence of "political interference" by the former leader's office in the complaints process.

Following the publishing of the damning report, Mr Corbyn claimed that Labour's anti-Semitism problem was "dramatically overstated for political reasons" - and Sir Keir Starmer confirmed it was these comments and the "failure to retract them" that led to his suspension.

Speaking during Call Keir, the current Labour leader pledged to speak to Chancellor Rishi Sunak over the three-million people excluded from coronavirus support.

Chris, a self-employed photographer from Dundee, rang in to tell Sir Keir that he was "one of the three million excluded" and he had not been able to access financial support from the government.

Our particular industry has been devastated," the caller told LBC, adding that "three million of us have fallen through the cracks."

He asked the Labour leader if he would speak to Mr Sunak to "try and get something for us, our businesses are falling and crashing each day."

"Chris, I'll give you that commitment," was Sir Keir's instant response.

Pledging to speak to the chancellor, the Labour leader said he will "do it again on the back of your call in this morning on LBC".

"To fall through the cracks back in March was bad enough, but to still not have the support you need is not acceptable."

Sir Keir said he would "take that away as a result of your phone call and redouble our efforts".