Source: Labour List UK
When the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism within Labour was published just over a week ago, it was thought a full scale civil war would ensue. The damning report found Labour responsible for unlawful acts and it was, as Keir Starmer put it, a dark day for the party. Within hours Jeremy Corbyn had been suspended for his EHRC response, in which he argued that “the scale of the problem was dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”. Reactions to his suspension have been mixed. Some such as Margaret Hodge saw it as a triumph for Starmer, while John McDonnell branded it “profoundly wrong”. Before long, a petition calling for Corbyn’s reinstatement was gathering signatures.
LabourList understands that longstanding Corbyn allies Jon Trickett MP and Unite’s Len McCluskey have been working behind the scenes to de-escalate the row and create a way back for the former leader. But the general response from left MPs has been markedly muted. The Socialist Campaign Group of MPs tweeted on the day that they “firmly oppose the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn” and have pledged to “work tirelessly for his reinstatement”. Reports quickly emerged that not all in the left-wing SCG group had been consulted on the post, however. And only 18 of the 33 SCG MPs (not counting Corbyn himself) signed a full statement this week that argued the disciplinary action should be “quickly reversed”. It is worth noting that some may not have been present at the meeting, as Nadia Whittome later said, adding her support. It is nonetheless notable that left Labour MPs were missing.
MPs lying low is not entirely surprising. The Parliamentary Labour Party was warned ahead of the report’s release that they were not to wade into any public discussion of the EHRC report unless they had been specifically requested by the party to do so. The action taken last week in suspending Corbyn suggests the warning was a serious one. Clearly many Corbynite MPs are keenly aware of the danger that making any comment on the substance of the former Labour leader’s statement could lead to their own suspension – and there is a reluctance to speak out when it is possible the situation could be resolved.
Other parts of the labour movement have been more bold. Unite the Union’s party staff branch complained that “due process appears to have broken down” in a letter last week sent on behalf of Labour employees, particularly in the governance and legal unit, which is responsible for handling complaints until they may be referred to the national executive committee. It said staff have been left “feeling very uncertain about the integrity of our processes” as they alleged the disciplinary action was “apparently not done using the formal GLU system and structures”. Starmer has said he did not take the decision to suspend the former leader himself and it was taken independently by David Evans. But some have criticised this process, as they interpret the EHRC report as determining that the general secretary also counts as “political interference”.
Grassroots organisations and members acting in Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) have been pushing back on the suspension. Various left groups have drafted statements in support of the leader, including the Labour Left Alliance (LLA); Labour Against the Witchhunt; Welsh Labour Grassroots; the Labour Representation Committee; Jewish Voice for Labour; the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD); and Socialist Appeal. The LLA and CLPD have circulated model motions for members to table at local party meetings, and the petition calling for Corbyn to be reinstated has reached over 30,000 signatures.