Labour Party anti-semitism

Corbyn is controversially suspended from the Labour Party following investigations into widespread anti-semitism during his tenure as leader

Jeremy Corbyn 'readmitted to Labour Party' after suspension over  anti-Semitism report response - Surrey Live
Photo by Jonathan Brady for PA Wire.

— 3 minute read — By Joe Clark

On 29th October, Jeremy Corbyn was expelled from the Labour Party having been a member since he was a teenager and party leader for the previous two general elections. Although he has now been reinstated, albeit without the Whip, the last few days have seen the confirmation that Corbyn will take action against the Labour Party due to his supposedly unlawful treatment. 

The importance of a former-party leader being suspended cannot be overstated, but it must be noted that this expulsion is not a stand-alone event; accusations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party have been building ever since Corbyn became leader in 2015. The Home Affairs Select Committee enquiry in 2016 found that there was no real evidence that Labour had an anti-semitism problem, although the Chakrabarti Inquiry – set up by Corbyn himself in the same year – did find ‘evidence of ignorant attitudes’.

To add to this, in February and July 2019, 350 members either resigned, were expelled or received a formal warning following Labour’s issuing of information on antisemitism investigation against individuals. Arguably the most significant event which highlighted the supposed issue within the Party occurred in February 2019, when nine MPs resigned – citing Labour’s handling of antisemitism and the Brexit negotiations as two of the key reasons for their departure. 

Even though the debates around the contested issue of anti-semitism in the Labour Party have been ominously exacerbating over the few years prior, there was a final event that seemingly became a trigger for Corbyn’s expulsion. This came on 29th October 2020, when the Equalities and Human Rights Commission published its reports into antisemitism within the Party; it stated that Labour had broken the law and Corbyn had shown ‘serious failings’ in addressing the problem whilst leader.

Around thirty minutes after the report was released, Corbyn himself stated that the problem ‘had been overstated for political reasons’ and the number of complaints had been ‘exaggerated’. Keir Starmer, current leader of the Party, claimed that it was this response, rather than the findings of the report itself, that led to the Labour Party’s General Secretary David Evans’ decision to expel him. Starmer called on Corbyn to ‘reflect’ on what he had said, arguing that the ‘vast majority’ of Labour Party members would not support his stance on the issue. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer has to work with Corbyn allies, win back Jews -  The Jerusalem Post
Photo by Hannah McKay for Reuters.

Corbyn insists that he will contest the decision to expel him and claims that he understands that the seriousness of the problem cannot be overstated, but that the scale of anti-semitism within the Labour Party can – and has been. On 17th November, he was reinstated back into the party, but the decision to reinstate him with the Whip is dependent on the outcome of a three-month investigation. This means that Corbyn will have to sit as an independent candidate in Parliament throughout the duration of this period at the very least. It was confirmed on 26th November that Corbyn would be taking legal action against the party’s decision to suspend him of the Whip, with his argument centring on the claim that Starmer agreed to a deal to readmit him back into Labour, in a position where he could stand as an MP for the party. 

Whatever outcome is decided by Corbyn’s legal battle against Starmer and those high-up in the Labour Party, it is clear that the debate surrounding anti-semitism within this political organisation will not be ending anytime in the near future. Some would argue that the expulsion of Corbyn from the party will solve the issue of anti-semitism, citing the fact that the number of investigations and complaints significantly increased during his tenure as party leader. Others would argue that the problem is more deep-rooted within Labour, and the removal of Corbyn is merely the first step in a long process to root out discriminatory views from within the organisation. The vast majority, however, would conclude that this is an issue of the utmost importance, which needs to be handled with competency and care.