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Jeremy Corbyn suspended from Labour Party following anti-semitism probe

Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the Labour Party [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 October, 2020

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The veteran leftwinger has said he will challenge the 'political intervention' against him.

Britain's main opposition Labour party on Thursday suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn following his response to a government watchdog report that it broke equality laws in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

"In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation," the party announced.

The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found damning instances where Corbyn's leadership team underplayed, belittled or ignored complaints by Jewish members, and sometimes actively interfered to support favoured allies.

In one of his first acts after replacing Corbyn in April, new Labour leader Keir Starmer apologised to Britain's Jewish community, and on Thursday he vowed to accept the entirety of the findings from the EHRC's two-year investigation.

"I found this report hard to read and it is a day of shame for the Labour Party," Starmer told a news conference, renewing apologies also to Jewish members who felt forced to quit the party in droves under Corbyn.

"I can promise you this: I will act. Never again will Labour let you down. Never again will we fail to tackle anti-Semitism," he said.

"The Labour Party accepts this report in full and without equivocation," he said, vowing implementation immediately and "in full".

Its affiliate, the Jewish Labour Movement, accused Corbyn of presiding over a "sordid, disgraceful chapter in the Labour Party's history".

Responding to the report, Corbyn said anti-Semitism was "absolutely abhorrent" and insisted his team had launched internal changes to tackle the problem from 2018.

But he said he did "not accept all of its findings". 

"One anti-Semite 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," he added.

Starmer refused to say whether he would now expel Corbyn and his allies from the party but said Labour had suffered a "collective failure of leadership".

"Those who deny the problem are part of the problem," he added.

'Damning verdict'

Corbyn was propelled from the backbenches to become Labour leader in 2015 after decades of activism, including for Palestinian causes.

His strongly held socialist views attracted thousands of new members but caused deep ideological infighting with more moderate elements.

His team was accused of failing to act on repeated incidents of anti-Semitic behaviour, including a flood of insults and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories spread by left-wingers online.

"Our investigation has highlighted multiple areas where (Labour's) approach and leadership to tackling anti-Semitism was insufficient," the EHRC's interim chair, Caroline Waters, said in presenting the 129-page report.

"This is inexcusable and appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so," she said.

The commission said that under Corbyn, Labour was guilty of three breaches of Britain's 2010 Equality Act for political interference in complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism cases and harassment of complainants.

But it stopped short of launching legal proceedings, instead ordering Labour to draft an action plan by December 10 to remedy its failures. 

Corbyn triggered a leadership election after Labour suffered a hammering in a general election last December, which returned the Conservatives to power under Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Jewish voters were among those who turned against the party.

In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and two other Jewish organisations said the report was a "damning verdict on what Labour did to Jews under Jeremy Corbyn and his allies".

"Now, the task of cleaning out the problem lies with the current leadership," they said. 

"We welcome the start that Keir Starmer has made, but the scale of the challenge that lies ahead should not be underestimated."

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