LONDON: Britain’s opposition Labour party suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday after he downplayed a report that detailed serious failings in the party’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints under his leadership.
Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, said Labour was facing a “day of shame” after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on how the party had dealt with allegations of anti-Semitism within its ranks.
Corbyn’s tenure was marred by persistent complaints of anti-Semitism in the party and criticism of the left-wing leader’s response.
The report and Corbyn’s response gave Starmer the opportunity to make a clear break on the issue.
Corbyn, 71, was suspended after saying he did not accept all the report’s findings, that his attempts at reforming complaints processes had been stalled by “obstructive party bureaucracy” and that the scale of the problem had been overstated for political reasons.
“In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation,” Labour said in a statement.
The party added it had removed the Labour whip from Corbyn, meaning that the former leader will no longer be able to take part in House of Commons votes as a Labour lawmaker.
Starmer said he accepted the EHRC’s 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,” said Starmer, who held a senior role under Corbyn’s leadership but has tried to stamp out the problem since taking over.
“Never again will we fail to tackle anti-Semitism and never again will we lose your trust,” he added.
Corbyn said anti-Semitism was “absolutely abhorrent” but broke with Starmer on fully accepting the report’s findings.
“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,” he said.
He added he would “strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed Corbyn’s suspension.
“Having presided over the descent of a proudly anti-racist party into a party that broke equalities law in its treatment of Jews, his shameless comments today showed that he remains part of the problem and is an obstruction to the resolution of the issue,” President Marie van der Zyl said.