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Labour suspends Jeremy Corbyn over reaction to anti-Semitism report

Labour has suspended Jeremy Corbyn from the party over his reaction to a highly critical report on anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

The human rights watchdog found Labour responsible for “unlawful” harassment and discrimination during Mr Corbyn’s years in charge of the party.

But he later said the scale of anti-Semitism within Labour had been “dramatically overstated” by opponents.

A Labour spokesman said Mr Corbyn was being suspended “for a failure to retract” his words.

Mr Corbyn reacted by calling the move “political” and promised to “strongly contest” it.

The suspension will remain in place while the party carries out an investigation into his remarks.

Sir Keir Starmer, who became Labour leader in April, said the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report had brought “a day of shame” for the party.

It found Labour responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act:The EHRC found evidence of 23 instances of “inappropriate involvement” by Mr Corbyn’s office, including staff influencing decisions on suspensions or whether to investigate a claim.

Sir Keir, who served under Mr Corbyn as shadow Brexit secretary, promised to implement the report’s recommendations “as soon as possible in the New Year” and to change Labour’s culture.

Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

This seems not to have been a deliberately designed collision between the current party boss and his predecessor.

But this was an explosive political parting of ways, provoked in part by Mr Corbyn’s trademark determination not to bend.

This is an attribute admired by many of his devotees, a frustration abhorred by his detractors and a sadness to those in Labour who believe it coloured the party’s handling of anti-Semitism.

For Sir Keir, this episode does, perhaps by accident rather than design, prove beyond doubt his slogan – Labour is under new leadership – to be true.

But he claimed his team had “acted to speed up, not hinder the process”, and that the scale of anti-Semitism within Labour had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.

Labour later said: “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.”

media captionKeir Starmer “disappointed” with Corbyn’s response
Mr Corbyn reacted to his suspension on Twitter, writing: “I will strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me. I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an anti-Semitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong.

“I will continue to support a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.”

In an interview, Mr Corbyn did not retract his comments and said he was “very shocked and very disappointed” at his suspension, adding: “I’ll be appealing to the party and those who made the decision to kindly think again.”

How events unfolded

10:00 GMT The EHRC releases its report saying Labour acted unlawfully over anti-Semitism

10:36 Jeremy Corbyn says there was an anti-Semitism problem in the party, but it was “dramatically overstated”

11:07 Sir Keir Starmer says those who think anti-Semitism is “exaggerated or a factional attack” are “part of the problem”

11:15 Sir Keir is repeatedly asked if he will expel Mr Corbyn for “exaggerated” comments – he says the report did not name individuals and repeats his previous statement

12:15 Mr Corbyn records an interview, to be released at 13:00, disagreeing with a number of the report’s points and repeating that the number of anti-Semitism cases is “exaggerated”

13:06 Labour announces it has suspended Mr Corbyn

He added: “I was very disappointed in Jeremy Corbyn’s statement and appropriate action has been taken, which I fully support.”

But he said would not “interfere” with the party’s internal investigation into Mr Corbyn’s statement.

Labour has been plagued by accusations of anti-Semitism since 2016, with a number of MPs quitting the party in protest while Mr Corbyn was leader.

Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said: “[The suspension] is the right decision following Corbyn’s shameful reaction to the EHRC report.

“Labour is finally saying enough is enough, anti-Semitism can never be tolerated in our party. Now we can finally move on.”

media captionSpeaking before he he was suspended, Ex-Labour MP Luciana Berger accuses Mr Corbyn of anti-Semitism
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “Jeremy is a thoroughly decent man, but he has an absolute blind spot and a denial when it comes to some of these issues.”

But groups on the left of the Labour movement attacked the decision to suspend him.

The Socialist Campaign Group, which includes some of Mr Corbyn’s former frontbench allies such as Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon, said it “firmly” opposed the move, adding: “We will work tirelessly for his reinstatement.”

And Momentum, among Mr Corbyn’s strongest backers, said: “This suspension risks politicising Labour’s response to anti-Semitism.

“It is a massive attack on the left by the new leadership and should be immediately lifted in the interests of party unity.”

For the Conservatives, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has written to Sir Keir, saying he “seemingly found it much harder to find the moral character and backbone to do what was right” while serving in the shadow cabinet under Mr Corbyn.

The EHRC launched its investigation last year after receiving a number of complaints from organisations and individuals, including the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement. BBCNews.

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