Labour was embroiled in yet more anti-Semitism fury tonight as ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn was re-instated as an MP just weeks after being suspended for downplaying the extent of anti-Jewish racism in the party.
The hard Left icon was suspended last month in the wake of comments he made about a groundbreaking investigation into racism aimed at Jews.
But this afternoon a panel of Labour’s National Executive Committee lifted his suspension and restored the whip, letting him off with what is believed to be its lightest possible censure.
It came after he issued a lengthy mea culpa on Facebook this morning, admitting he had been wrong to criticise the official probe by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which found Labour was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.
Mr Corbyn had rejected some of the equality watchdog’s findings and claimed the issue had been ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’ by his critics.
It prompted his suspension from the party and the removal of the whip as an MP, just seven months after he stepped down as Opposition Leader after four-and-a-half tumultuous years in charge.
This evening, Corbyn tweeted to his 2.4million followers: ‘I am pleased to have been reinstated in the Labour Party and would like to thank party members, trade unionists and all who have offered solidarity.
‘Our movement must now come together to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.’
His return poses a major problem for new leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has pledged that ‘under my leadership, zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism will mean precisely that’.
Mr Starmer tweeted this evening that today’s decision marked ‘another painful day for the Jewish community and those Labour members who have fought so hard to tackle antisemitism’.
Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, tweeted: ‘This is a broken outcome from a broken system. A factional, opaque and dysfunctional complaints process could never reach a fair conclusion. This is exactly why the EHRC instructed Labour to setup an independent process!
‘I simply cannot comprehend why it is acceptable for Corbyn to be a Labour MP if he thinks antisemitism is exaggerated and a political attack, refuses to apologise, never takes responsibility for his actions & rejects the findings of the EHRC report. Ridiculous.’
The hard Left icon issued a lengthy mea culpa on Facebook this morning, admitting he had been wrong to criticise an independent report into the scale of racism aimed at Jews
Writing on Facebook this morning he published a statement he privately made to the party that day, pledging support for Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to purge the party of anti-Semites
Jeremy Corbyn said he was ‘pleased to be reinstated,’ to the party he led from 2015 to 2020
Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said Mr Corbyn’s ‘shambolic suspension and readmission’ was ‘nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow of the EHRC’s report.
‘By readmitting Mr Corbyn, the Labour Party has once again excused anti-Semitism and proved itself unwilling to address it,’ he said.
‘Mr Corbyn’s suspension should have remained in place until all of our complaints against him were investigated, but no investigation has been undertaken.
‘Once again, we see the impact of Labour’s failure to implement an independent disciplinary process as demanded by the EHRC and Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership pledges that have now gone unfulfilled for almost a year.
‘The Jewish community has been conned. Mr Corbyn must be resuspended immediately pending investigation of our complaint against him under the new independent process mandated by the EHRC. Britain is watching.’
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the decision to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn was a ‘retrograde step,’ for Labour.
Its president Marie van der Zyl, Jewish leadership chairman Jonathan Goldstein and community security trust chief executive Mark Gardner said: ‘Today’s decision is a retrograde step for the party in its relations with the Jewish community. Jeremy Corbyn’s dismissive approach to the damning EHRC’s findings rightly saw him suspended.
Earlier today Jeremy Corbyn outlined his thoughts on the suspension, while Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge has criticsed a decision to reinstate him to the party
‘For Jeremy Corbyn’s allies on the NEC to expedite his case whilst hundreds of other cases languished under his tenure, and his confected non-apology earlier today adds insult to injury.
‘This politicisation of the process goes against what the EHRC recommended just last month. Labour’s mountain to climb to win back the trust of our community just got higher.’
A source close to the former opposition leader said Mr Corbyn would be readmitted though has not yet been formally told, following a meeting of the disputes panel of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee.
His reinstatement has been welcomed by others. Unite union leader Len McCluskey, a powerful supporter, said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s readmission is the correct, fair and unifying decision.
‘As a party we now move forward to implement the EHRC’s recommendations and redouble our efforts to inspire voters about Keir’s 10 pledges and the transformation of our nations into fairer places for our people. Only Labour, united and strong, can bring this about.’
Former labour frontbencher Lloyd Russel-Moyle tweeted: ‘Very pleased indeed that Jeremy Corbyn has been unsuspended from the party. We must go forward united and expose the failures of this government.’
But Neil Coyle, a longstanding Corbyn critic, said: ‘The EHRC found the Labour Party guilty of unlawful discrimination and instructed us to implement a new, independent complaints process and end political interference.
‘That could not be more demonstrably necessary. The EHRC may not be done with Labour yet.’
A spokeswoman for the Jewish Labour Movement said: ‘It is extraordinary that just weeks after the EHRC found that the Labour Party had discriminated against Jewish members through political manipulation of the disciplinary process, it appears that the party expedited this case for hearing by a factionally aligned political committee.
‘After his failure of leadership to tackle anti-Semitism, so clearly set out in the EHRC’s report, any reasonable and fair-minded observer would see Jeremy Corbyn’s statement today as insincere and wholly inadequate.
‘He has offered no apology for his total failure of leadership to tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, or contrition for his role in allowing political manipulation of the disciplinary process by his own office in his name.
‘His statement on the day of the report’s publication made no mention of this and was grossly offensive as it downplayed the reality of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Today’s decision will only embolden those who agreed with him.
‘Once again we find ourselves having to remind the Labour Party that Jeremy Corbyn is not the victim of Labour antisemitism – Jewish members are.’
Writing on Facebook this morning former Labour leader Mr Corbyn published a statement he privately made to the party that day, acknowledging the ‘pain’ felt by the Jewish community.
But Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews , urged the party to reject his apparent contrition.
‘The Jewish community does not accept this pathetic non-apology from Jeremy Corbyn,’ she said.
‘If the Party wants to show it is serious about tackling anti-Jewish racism, it will consign this statement, just like the culture which led to the EHRC’s damning findings, to the dustbin of history.
‘To do otherwise would be a failure of leadership which would risk the Party slipping backwards.’
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews , urged the party to reject his apparent contrition. ‘The Jewish community does not accept this pathetic non-apology from Jeremy Corbyn,’ she said
Mr Corbyn revealed he had given the statement to Labour in an attempt to ‘clear up any confusion’ over his initial response and a broadcast interview given in the wake of the report.
‘We must never tolerate anti-Semitism or belittle concerns about it. And that was not my intention in anything I said this week,’ he wrote.
‘I regret the pain this issue has caused the Jewish community and would wish to do nothing that would exacerbate or prolong it.
‘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.
‘Keir Starmer’s decision to accept all the EHRC recommendations in full and, in accordance with my own lifelong convictions, will do what I can to help the Party move on, united against anti-Semitism which has been responsible for so many of history’s greatest crimes against humanity.’
Allies of the former party leader had united behind him, demanding the party quash his suspension and threatening a lengthy court battle.
In his message today Mr Corbyn thanked his supporters, adding: ‘I’m grateful to the many thousands of Labour party members, trade unionists, and supporters in Britain and around the world, who have offered their solidarity.
‘I hope this matter is resolved as quickly as possible, so that the party can work together to root out antisemitism and unite to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.’
The charges against Labour in damning 130-page report
- Labour breached the Equality Act 2010 by committing ‘unlawful harassment’ in two of the complaints investigated. They included ‘using antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of antisemitism were fake or smears’.
- One of the cases involved Ken Livingstone, who in 2016 defended MP Naz Shah over claims of anti-Semitism by claiming there was a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to undermine and disrupt Mr Corbyn’s leadership. He later resigned from the Labour Party after being suspended.
- A further 18 cases were ‘borderline’, involving local councillors, local election candidates and Constituency Labour Party (CLP) officials.
- Analysis of 70 anti-Semitism complaint files found 23 incidences of ‘political interference’ by Mr Corbyn’s office and others. This included ‘clear examples of interference at various stages throughout the complaint handling process, including in decisions on whether to investigate and whether to suspend’ party members.
- The party’s complaints process was ‘inconsistent, poor, and lacking in transparency’.
- In cases where a complaint of anti-Semitism was upheld, it was ‘difficult to draw conclusions on whether the sanctions applied were fair and consistent’.
- Recommendations made by the watchdog include commissioning an independent process to handle anti-Semitism complaints and acknowledging the effect political interference has had and implementing clear rules to stop it happening again.