Why was Jeremy Corbyn suspended from the Labour Party?

17 November 2020, 20:32 | Updated: 17 November 2020, 20:54

Sir Keir Starmer suspended his predecessor last month
Sir Keir Starmer suspended his predecessor last month. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Jeremy Corbyn has been readmitted to the Labour Party just three weeks after he was suspended.

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

His successor Sir Keir Starmer withdrew the whip from him last month after a damning report into the anti-Semitism crisis that rocked Mr Corbyn’s leadership, and saw Labour suffer its worst electoral defeat since 1935.

The move to reinstate him has reignited fears the party could descend into another bruising civil war - with many feeling it is at odds with Sir Keir’s vow to take a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism.

When was Jeremy Corbyn suspended?

Mr Corbyn was suspended on 29 October on Labour’s “day of shame” which saw the human rights watchdog find the party broke equality law over its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

A damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found 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.

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn readmitted to Labour Party following suspension

Jeremy Corbyn was suspended last month
Jeremy Corbyn was suspended last month. Picture: PA

Sir Keir said at the time the findings of the EHRC investigation were “hard to read and it is a day of shame for the Labour Party”.

“We have failed Jewish people, our members, our supporters and the British public,” he said.

“And so on behalf of the Labour Party: I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused.”

Why was Jeremy Corbyn suspended?

Following the damning publication, Mr Corbyn rejected some of the report’s findings and claimed the issue had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by his critics.

His statement was seen as insensitive and met with opprobrium, leading to Labour’s headquarters suspending him from the party as current leader Sir Keir Starmer sought to draw a dividing line between the Labour Party now and the five years under Mr Corbyn.

Sir Keir told reporters: “I made it clear that we won’t tolerate anti-Semitism or the denial of anti-Semitism through the suggestion that it’s exaggerated or factional and that’s why I was disappointed in Jeremy Corbyn’s response, and that is why appropriate action has been taken, which I fully support.”

A Labour Party spokesman said at the time: “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.”

What has happened since Jeremy Corbyn was suspended?

Mr Corbyn said he would “strongly contest” the decision to suspend him, which he described as a “political intervention”.

He said he was “very shocked and very disappointed” by the move and said it was “odd that it all happened so very quickly”.

Mr Corbyn told his supporters to stay in the party amid fears of a Labour split, as former shadow cabinet ministers Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Richard Burgon stepped up their calls for him to be reinstated.

Len McCluskey, the boss of the Unite union, a major financial backer for Labour, warned Mr Corbyn’s suspension was an “act of grave injustice” that could cause a split and doom the party to defeat.

The party’s ruling National Executive Committee disputes panel launched an investigation and decided to readmit him.

Why was Corbyn reinstated?

Sir Keir Starmer did not address why Mr Corbyn was reinstated, but in a Twitter thread said it had been "another painful day for the Jewish community".

He added: "Jeremy Corbyn's statement in response to the EHRC report was wrong and completely distracted from a report that identified unlawful conduct in our tackling of racism within the Labour Party. This should shame us all.

Read more: 'Jeremy Corbyn has been let back in Labour with the lightest of slaps on the wrist'

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

"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."

The move comes hours after Mr Corbyn backed down slightly in a statement on Tuesday to say it was “not his intention” to say anti-Jewish racism should be tolerated, and he “regrets the pain this issue has caused the Jewish community”.

His statement added: “To be clear, concerns about anti-Semitism are neither 'exaggerated' nor 'overstated'.

“The point I wished to make was that the vast majority of Labour Party members were and remain committed anti-racists deeply opposed to anti-Semitism.”

It is not yet clear whether Mr Corbyn will face any sanctions from the party. For example, Sir Keir could decide to reinstate him as a member but not restore the whip, meaning he would be an independent MP.