Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was re-instated as an MP tonight just weeks after being suspended for downplaying the extent of anti-Semitism 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.
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.
But Jewish groups rejected his statement as a ‘pathetic non-apology’ and demanded that Mr Corbyn not be allowed to return to the Commons for Labour.
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’.
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.
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
‘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.’
But his reinstatement has been welcomed by others. 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.’
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.