The former leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, is to begin legal action against the party after it refused to readmit him to its parliamentary ranks amid a row on anti-Semitism, the Guardian reported on Thursday.
The newspaper said Corbyn’s allies claimed a deal was made with party leader Keir Starmer and say they have proof of meetings on the matter.
Starmer, who was elected leader in April, refused to allow Corbyn to come back to the parliamentary party after vowing to root out anti-Semitism in Labour that opponents alleged went unchecked and flourished under Corbyn, and saw Jewish members and lawmakers leave in droves.
The newspaper said it was believed Corbyn’s legal team would attempt to present evidence of what they claim was a deal between Starmer’s chief of staff, Morgan McSweeney, and his deputy, Simon Fletcher, with Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, and the former shadow cabinet minister Jon Trickett representing Corbyn.
The Guardian said it saw evidence of communications between members of Starmer’s office and representatives of Corbyn which suggested there were private meetings, but the newspaper gave no details on what may have been discussed.
Corbyn’s team is also expected to claim that Starmer, McSweeney and Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, met McCluskey and Trickett in parliament the day after Corbyn’s suspension in the wake of a report on anti-Semitism in the party. Labour sources do not deny that meeting took place, and Starmer is understood to have made clear he didn’t want any involvement in decisions around the convening of the disciplinary panel to discuss Corbyn’s case, the Guardian reported.
“Any accusation that there was a deal or an attempt to determine the outcome of any disciplinary process is wrong,” an unnamed Labour party source told the newspaper.
Last month, a report by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found Labour under Corbyn had broken the law in its “inexcusable” handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
But in defiance of the party’s new leadership under Starmer, Corbyn had refused to accept all its findings and questioned the motives of the two-year independent probe.
He insisted the scale of the problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”
That prompted his immediate suspension pending an internal investigation, and the “whip” was withdrawn, meaning he could not sit with other Labour MPs in the House of Commons.
But in an unusually rapid process, his party membership was restored by a party disciplinary panel following a more conciliatory statement from the former leader.
Starmer nevertheless said he was not prepared to allow the socialist campaigner back into Labour’s parliamentary ranks, after tempers flared again over the panel’s decision.
“I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn,” he tweeted. “The disciplinary process does not have the confidence of the Jewish community. “That became clear once again yesterday.”
Starmer stressed that as leader of the parliamentary party, the decision on which MPs could retain the whip was his and separate from the question of Corbyn’s Labour membership.
“Since I was elected Labour leader, I have made it my mission to root out anti-Semitism from the Labour Party. I know that I will be judged on my actions, not my words.
“Jeremy Corbyn’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.”