Labour engulfed by split as Keir Starmer withholds whip from Jeremy Corbyn

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

A civil war is brewing in the Labour Party after its former leader Jeremy Corbyn did not have the whip restored, following his suspension over his reaction to a report on anti-Semitism in the party under his leadership.

Current leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would not allow Mr Corbyn back into the Parliamentary Labour Party because he "undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party's ability to tackle anti-Semitism".

It means Mr Corbyn's 37 years as a Labour MP are over, however he remains a party member after being reinstated by disciplinary panel.

In a statement, Sir Keir said his predecessor's actions in response to the EHRC report "undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party's ability to tackle anti-Semitism".

He added: "In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review."

Sir Keir's move to withhold the whip has upset many of Mr Corbyn's close allies in the party, including former shadow cabinet members John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon.

But the decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) to restore his party membership left many Jewish Labour supporters furious.

Mr McDonnell, the shadow chancellor during Mr Corbyn's leadership, said Sir Keir's decision was "just plain wrong" and would cause "more division and disunity in the party".

Ms Abbott, who served as shadow home secretary under Mr Corbyn, said removing the whip "raises serious questions of due process".

Fellow former shadow cabinet minister Mr Burgon said: "Jeremy should immediately have the whip restored. At a time of national crisis, division in the Labour party serves nobody but the Tory Gov't."

Andrew Scattergood, chairman of the Corbyn-supporting grassroots activist movement Momentum, accused Sir Keir of "making it up as he goes along", describing the decision as a "blatant political attack on the left".

Momentum founder Jon Lansman said the move not to restore the whip had "driven a coach and horses through the party's disciplinary process, making it subservient to the parliamentary party and embedding "political interference".

But Sir Keir's action was welcomed by veteran Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who said: "Yesterday has shown once again just how broken and unjust the existing complaints system is.

"It has caused untold hurt and anguish across the Jewish community, undermined progress made and made me question my own place in the party.

"As Corbyn has refused to himself accept the findings of the EHRC report, refused to apologise for his actions and refused to take any responsibility, withholding the whip is the right decision."

But Ms Hodge was disappointed with the NEC’s move to reinstate Mr Corbyn as were other Labour MPs and Jewish leaders.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, claimed Mr Corbyn’s suspension had been “nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow” of the EHRC report. The Jewish Labour Movement said it appeared the former party leader’s case had been “expedited” by a “factionally aligned political committee”.

A disciplinary panel lifted reinstated Mr Corbyn as a member three weeks after he was suspended over his reaction to the damning Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into anti-Semitism.

Mr Corbyn, who has been an MP for Islington North since 1983, was suspended after he said he did not accept some aspects of the EHRC report, which found the party, under his leadership was "responsible for unlawful acts" of anti-Semitic discrimination and harassment.

The report also said the party was guilty of political interference in antisemitism complaints.

Mr Corbyn said the scale of the problem in Labour was "dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party".

Ahead of the disciplinary hearing which resulted in him being reinstated as a member, the former leader put out a statement, clarifying his remarks.

He said: "To be clear, concerns about anti-Semitism are neither 'exaggerated' nor 'overstated'.

"The point I wished to make was that the vast majority of Labour Party members were and remain committed anti-racists deeply opposed to antisemitism."

He was later reinstated as a party member by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party.

He released a statement on Twitter thanking his supporters.

Mr Corbyn was informed that he would have the Labour whip withdrawn from him over the phone by party chief whip Nick Brown on Wednesday morning, Sir Keir's spokesman said.

The Labour leader's spokesman told reporters: "Jeremy was informed of the decision this morning before Keir issued his statement.

"Jeremy was informed by the chief whip. As I understand it, he spoke to him over the phone."

Mr Corbyn was suspended less than a year after launching his bid to become prime minister at the 2019 general election.

At the time he said he'd be trying to get the whip back, writing: "I'll be appealing to the party and those who made this decision to kindly think again."