The former leader of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, will not be restored as a Labour member of Parliament (MP), the current Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said on Wednesday.
The decision is likely to deepen divisions in the main opposition party, some of whom remain fiercely loyal to Corbyn, 71, who led the party for nearly five years and re-energised left-wing supporters by pursuing a staunchly socialist agenda.
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UK media reports said five councillors had quit over Starmer’s decision, which they said was a sign of the party moving “rightward”.
Corbyn was readmitted to the party on Tuesday after being suspended for comments seen to be downplaying a report critical of Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints under his leadership.
However, Starmer refused to readmit him to the Parliamentary Labour Party, meaning he would not officially represent Labour in parliament and would continue to be classed as an “independent” MP.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle antisemitism,” Starmer tweeted.
“In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn,” he said, using a term of parliamentary procedure. “I will keep this situation under review.”
Corbyn’s suspension from the wider Labour Party was lifted after he released a statement saying he had not intended to exacerbate or prolong the pain that anti-Semitism accusations had caused the Jewish community.
“We must never tolerate anti-Semitism or belittle concerns about it,” his November 17 statement said.
Corbyn has not yet commented on Starmer’s decision.
Corbyn’s supporters have accused Starmer of an attempt to purge the party of its more left-wing members and sympathisers.
Diane Abbott, a Labour MP and Corbyn ally, tweeted on Wednesday: “Labour MPs lose the whip if suspended from the party automatically. De facto you can’t be a Labour MP if you’re not actually in the Labour Party. But removing the whip from @jeremycorbyn now raises serious questions of due process.”
Zarah Sultana, another Labour MP, said: “Jeremy Corbyn is a Labour Member of Parliament. He absolutely should have the whip immediately restored. This division only helps the Conservatives. It’s time to unite to take on this rotten government.”
John McDonnell, a Labour MP who was the shadow chancellor under Corbyn’s leadership of the party, said: “This is just plain wrong & will cause more division & disunity in party. Jeremy’s gone through the formal procedures & decision has been made properly. I appeal to everyone that surely it’s time to move on & start working together to implement the EHRC.”