Crunch time for Jeremy Corbyn as he’s back in Labour – but doesn’t have the whip
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Jeremy Corbyn could learn his future today after he was left “half-in, half-out” of the Labour Party in a mounting civil war.
The ex-leader was readmitted as a Labour member last night less than three weeks after being suspended for comments on anti-Semitism.
But the decision by Labour’s ruling NEC prompted fury from Jewish groups and MP Margaret Hodge, who savaged the “broken outcome from a broken system”.
Keir Starmer now faces mounting pressure not to hand the whip back to Mr Corbyn – leaving him as an independent in Parliament.
That would put Mr Corbyn in the extraordinary situation where he was a member of the Labour Party but not able to speak or vote as a Labour MP.
The ex-leader was readmitted as a Labour member last night
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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A decision had still not been taken this morning over the whip but a party source admitted: “People understand this is only going to grow and grow. Everybody understands what the time pressures may be today.”
Reports suggested Dame Margaret could quit the party. She tweeted: "This is a broken outcome from a broken system. A factional, opaque and dysfunctional complaints process could never reach a fair conclusion. This is exactly why the EHRC instructed Labour to setup an independent process!"
Dame Louise Ellman, the Jewish ex-MP who quit the party over its handling of anti-Semitism last year, said Sir Keir should "refuse to restore the whip" to Mr Corbyn.
"That way they could show that they are determined – as they have said they are – to rid the party of this dreadful stain," she told BBC Two's Newsnight.
Keir Starmer always claimed he had no control over Mr Corbyn’s suspension from the party, which was lifted by an NEC panel in a surprise meeting yesterday.
Not restoring the whip would be highly unusual
Panel members reportedly chose to readmit Mr Corbyn with a ‘formal warning’ after he said the scale of anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated”.
But Sir Keir does have a say in whether to restore the whip in Parliament – leaving him and Chief Whip Nick Brown walking a political tightrope.
Not restoring the whip would be highly unusual and Corbyn allies suggested to the New Statesman that it could be against party rules.
Labour’s rule book says: “All Labour MPs shall be members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and play their part in its work.”
The MP was suspended from both the party and whip last month for his response to a damning Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report which found that the party had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
Labour leader Keir Starmer refused to say if he supported the decision last night
Mr Corbyn claimed that the scale of anti-Semitism in the party was "dramatically overstated for political reasons" by opponents and "much of the media”.
He later sought to clarify his comments by saying: “To be clear, concerns about anti-Semitism are neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’.”
Sir Keir tweeted a lengthy statement on Tuesday evening saying: "I know that this has been another painful day for the Jewish community.
“Jeremy Corbyn's statement in response to the EHRC report was wrong and completely distracted from a report that identified unlawful conduct in our tackling of racism within the Labour Party. This should shame us all.”
But Sir Keir refused to say if he supported or opposed the decision to let Mr Corbyn back – adding: “I will not allow a focus on one individual to prevent us from doing the vital work of tackling anti-Semitism.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, said the former leader's readmission was the "correct, fair and unifying decision".
Mr Corbyn tweeted: "I am pleased to have been reinstated in the Labour Party and would like to thank party members, trade unionists and all who have offered solidarity.
"Our movement must now come together to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government."
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But the Jewish Labour Movement said it appeared the former party leader's case had been "expedited" by a "factionally aligned political committee".
Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, claimed Mr Corbyn's suspension was "nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow" of the EHRC report.
Labour MP Neil Coyle said: “To those who feel as let down as I am seeing from some members today, I’d like to apologise. I didn’t think I’d have to do that for the Labour Party after the EHRC report. I’m sorry we are yet to rebuild trust and regain support. I’m sorry Labour processes are not yet fixed.”
A furious shadow cabinet insider told the Mirror the news was damning for both the party and Keir Starmer.
They said: "Keir Starmer couldn't look more out of control of his party if he tried – if winning control of your party is the first test on the road to Downing Street then we haven't even left the house yet."
Despite claims of factionalism, the Guardian reported the balance of the NEC panel was roughly balanced between Corbyn critics and supporters.