|Sir Keir Starmer, asserting an unprecedented prerogative as Leader of the Labour Party, overrode a decision of the National Executive in the matter of Jeremy Corbyn’s membership of the Party.
Corbyn was suspended from the Party for expressing the opinion that the problem of Anti-Semitism in the Party had been wildly exaggerated by the media. A public opinion survey showed that there was a widespread opinion that thirty per cent of the Party members were being investigated on suspicion of being Anti-Semitic. What the independent Report showed was that 0.3% were being investigated. The Party Secretary suspended him within hours of his making that comment. It is only realistic to suppose that he did not act other than as Sir Keir’s instrument. Starmer had already said that people like Corbyn should be let nowhere near the Labour Party.
Three weeks later the National Executive considered the Corbyn suspension and concluded that there were no legitimate grounds for it. It restored his membership of the Party. Dame Margaret Hodge immediately delivered an ultimatum to Sir Keir: if he did not withdraw the Whip from Corbyn, she would resign from the Party the next day. The following morning Sir Keir withdrew the Whip from Corbyn.
The way he put it was that he withheld the Whip from Corbyn. This meant that he was making the Parliamentary Party independent of the National Executive. Hitherto an elected member of the Party was a member of the Parliamentary Party as a matter of course.
(It appears that Sir Keir will now attempt to assert control of the National Executive. As part of long-running convention, Vice-Chair Ian Murray from the Fire Brigades Union was set to become Chair of the NEC. But, defying precedent, the leadership installed their ally Dame Margaret Beckett instead. Readers will remember that Ms Beckett was part of the Blair Government which made war on Iraq.)
It is curious that Sir Keir did not also override the National Executive in the matter of Corbyn’s membership.
Perhaps that was judged to be a step too far at that point. Anyhow, as we go to press, the situation is that Corbyn is a member of the Labour Party by decision of the National Executive, but is excluded from the Parliamentary Party as an Anti-Semite. Sir Keir has used roundabout language in the matter. But his staunchest supporters have bluntly condemned Corbyn as an Anti-Semite and Sir Keir has not uttered a word of dissent.
His stated purpose now is to “move on”. He has given the media, which has always been hostile to the Corbyn development, ample grounds for describing Corbyn as an infamous Anti-Semite, condemned as such by the Party which he tried to corrupt. And Sir Keir wants to ‘move on’, leaving Corbyn on the scrap heap of history alongside Hitler.
This is poisonous nonsense. Corbyn is patently the very reverse of an AntiSemite. Plenty of individual Jews have come forward to report his aboveaverage actions over the years in supporting Jews on matters of individual or community concern.
What should an honest man do in these circumstances? Sacrifice his honesty for the sake of the Party—in the style of Arthur Koestler’s novel ‘Darkness at Noon’ —in the hope that the Board of Deputies will give the Party a certificate of Zionist approval?
Dame Hodge threatened to leave the Party if Sir Keir did not do what he has done. Corbyn has the ultimate resource of resigning his seat and re-fighting it to give the electorate the final say on Sir Keir’s branding of him as an AntiSemite.
That is the issue. It is not an unimportant issue. There must be some limit to blackguardism in politics.
And, remember, Sir Keir was on Corbyn’s Front Bench last year, when, according to Sir Keir’s staunchest supporters, the Party was being saturated with Anti-Semitism.
There is also the curious way in which no one wants to take a look at Anti-Semitism among Tories or Ulster Unionists or Liberal-Democrats. Or anywhere except in the Labour Party, with the most intense scrutiny for those who support socialism.