Corbyn supporters: We will not go away

Labour’s NEC rejects motion to restore parliamentary whip to Islington North MP

Friday, 28th January — By Anna Lamche

corbyn entering

Jeremy Corbyn currently sits as an independent in the House of Commons

LABOUR’S ruling body has rejected a motion to restore the parliamentary whip to Jeremy Corbyn – meaning it would be difficult for him to stand for the party again if a general election was called.

The National Executive Committee voted on Tuesday to keep the Islington North MP out in the cold.

Without the Labour whip, Mr Corbyn currently sits as an independent in the House of Commons, nearly 40 years after his first election to parliament. Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has said Mr Corbyn must apologise for his response to the findings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) investigation into the handling of anti-semitism complaints.

Left-wing NEC members, union representative Ian Murray and the NEC’s local party representative, Nadia Jama, had brought the motion. They saw it defeated by 23 votes to 14, with one abstention.

Julia Bard, a member of the Islington Friends of Jeremy Corbyn campaign, said the rejection of the motion was a “mark of complete disrespect to all of us who are represented by him in Islington North”.

She added: “This was an opportunity for them to reunite the party. We should be getting on with fighting to protect everyone – especially the vulnerable in Islington – nationally and internationally, but it’s really difficult for us to put our heart and soul into the things which really matter while we’re fighting this factional battle.”

The EHRC report said the party had failed to prevent discrimination and harassment in its handling of anti-semitism cases.

While Mr Corbyn said the investigation’s recommendations should be implemented, 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.”

Mike Katz, chair of the national Jewish Labour Movement, described the NEC’s vote as the right decision, adding: “As for the 14 who voted for the motion: no apology, no contrition, no recognition of the huge damage done to Labour’s Jewish members and the party’s relationship with the Jewish community. Why on earth should that behaviour be rewarded?”

Mr Corbyn’s supporters in Islington, however, reject any suggestion that the MP does not take all forms of racism seriously.

Months after the report came out, they fear his future and prospects of returning to Labour are now being used as a proxy battle in the fight over the party’s political direction.

“Jeremy’s the focus of it, but it’s much wider than him,” said Ms Bard.

“He says that at every opportunity: this is not about me, this is a much bigger issue – what’s under attack is the section of the party fighting for peace, justice and equality.”

Without Mr Corbyn, Ms Bard said, the party is struggling to maintain its membership.

“The fact of the matter is droves of people have already left. Roughly 200,000 have already left, but it was the biggest party in Europe under his leadership,” she said, adding that the atmosphere within the party has changed in recent months. “People are being suspended without being told why, and with no real recourse to appeal,” she said.

“People are afraid to speak out. I can’t find words to describe it – I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime.”

Alison McGarry, chair of the local Labour Party, said: “As chair of Islington North CLP, I will say our activists and supporters of Jeremy will carry on campaigning for the return of whip. We’re not going away: he’s our MP and we want the whip restored to him.”

She added: “The North Islington electorate have elected Jeremy as the Labour MP for over 30 years because he has worked tirelessly, supporting our communities.

“The supportive statements sent to the NEC by the mosque, local councillors, Jewish supporters and party activists show the extent of local support for our MP and the urgent need for party leaders to listen to Labour members and the local Labour electorate.

“The NEC should stop the party divisions and restore the whip. If not, I believe Labour will continue to lose party members and risks losing many Labour voters.”

Mr Corbyn said the result was “disappointing” but “the struggle for peace, justice and sustainability goes on”.

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