UK’s main opposition Labour party has suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn, in a stunning development that followed the release of a damning report by the Britain’s human rights watchdog.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on Thursday identified “serious failings” with how Labour dealt with anti-Semitism in the party during Corbyn’s time as leader.
Corbyn responded to the report by saying that while he condemned anti-Semites, the scale of the problem under his leadership had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons.”
Those comments drew a swift and dramatic response from the party.
“In light of (Corbyn’s) 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,” a party spokesperson said.
The decision rocked the British political world less than a year ago, at the December 2019 general election, Corbyn was bidding to be Prime Minister.
Corbyn said he would “strongly contest” the decision to suspend him.
He said on Twitter: “I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an antisemitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong. I will continue to support a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.”
Earlier on Thursday, Corbyn said in a statement that he worked to “speed up – not hinder” the investigation of complaints.
He added: “One anti-Semite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.”
Before Corbyn’s suspension was publicly announced, his successor as leader, Keir Starmer, said he accepted the report “in full” and would implement all its recommendations. “It is a day of shame for the Labour Party. We have failed Jewish people… I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused,” Starmer said in a prepared statement.
“Never again will we fail to tackle anti-Semitism and never again will we lose your trust,” Starmer added.
The EHRC said the political party was responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act. These were: Political interference in anti-Semitism complaints; failure to provide proper training to handle the complaints; and harassment.