Ever since Kier Starmer won the leadership contest, the feeling was that Jeremy Corbyn’s days in the Labour Party were numbered. Not because he’d leave, but because he is the uncompromising left-wing voice that the Starmer cohort see as unelectable.
Without suggesting that today’s EHRC findings were in any way geared towards a coup against the left-wing of the party, that is certainly how its being perceived by many Labour supporters. For now, ex-party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been suspended from the Labour Party, based on the both the findings and his response to a report done on the ongoing antisemitism within the party’s ranks.
BREAKING: Jeremy Corbyn suspended from Labour.
“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” – spox
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) October 29, 2020
Antisemitism certainly wasn’t the hot topic on the public agenda when today’s news broke, but will certainly divert some attention from the tired Boris Johnson, who’ll be grateful that Labour have given commentators something else to talk about.
Responding to the ruling by the EHRC, and Labour’s decision to suspend him, Corbyn has said he will contest the findings.
I will strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me.
I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an antisemitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong.
I will continue to support a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 29, 2020
Twitter users on both sides have also taken to voicing their opinions, with many commenting that Corbyn has spent several decades fighting racism both in and out of Parliament, with a few describing him as ‘the most decent person’ in British politics.
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite.
— Gravel Institute (@GravelInstitute) October 29, 2020
Others have called the move out as a direct attempt to subvert the leftists of the party, with one user noting that Corbyn was the first on the list of MPs highlighted to have been suspended. A former Labour MP added:
It’s appalling that Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended by the Labour Party, but it should surprise no one.
Socialists in the Party must stop deluding themselves: this was always about destroying Jeremy and criminalising criticism of Israel. It had nothing to do with anti-Semitism!
— Chris Williamson (@DerbyChrisW) October 29, 2020
In contrast, many are pleased that Starmer’s Labour appears to be expelling the old guard who – guilty or otherwise – have been heavily associated with remarks and behaviours deemed by the EHRC report to be anti-Semitic.
Hugely impressed by Starmer’s willingness to confront racism. Suspending Corbyn shows real political courage.
— Nick Cohen (@NickCohen4) October 29, 2020
Of course, coup or not, Starmer’s team takes a real gamble with this latest move. Certainly, they’d made a vocal commitment to stamping out any reported sources of anti-Semitism within the party. However, many of the party’s left-leaning support core simply do not believe that Corbyn is a racist, and that remarks seen as anti-Semitic were instead critiques of Israeli political policy.
Whichever of these reports is true, it is clear that Starmer has a lot of work to do to re-earn the mantle as leader of the ‘party of unity’. Many on the left will now be looking away from Labour – either offering their support to another party, or starting a party of their own. What is on Starmer’s side is time, and with four years until the next, calendared election, he has a lot of time to soothe wounds and flatten out rough edges.
We mustn’t forget, though, that Corbyn isn’t gone. For now, he’s merely been distanced, and much to the chagrin of Mr Starmer, he may yet return:
Worth remembering that it’s *suspends* not *expels*. There has to be due process: that, after all, is partly what the EHRC was so concerned about in its report. Labour may have to ‘welcome’ him back in due course. So, while it’s quite something, it’s not the end – not yet anyway https://t.co/sa4sEjtPSp
— Tim Bale (@ProfTimBale) October 29, 2020
It reminds me of a (somewhat butchered) Machiavelli proverb: if you are to harm your enemy, kill them. If you merely injure them, they shall remember, and seek vengeance upon you. If Corbyn finds his way back to Westminster, Starmer may have booked himself an uncomfortable time as leader.