Suspension of Jeremy Corbyn the latest salvo in Labour’s civil war

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will “strongly contest” his suspension from Labour, signalling another outbreak of hostilities in the party’s bitter civil war.

Labour headquarters suspended former leader Mr Corbyn, and removed the parliamentary whip, after he said the scale of the anti-Semitism problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by his opponents “inside and outside the party”.

The move came against a backdrop of a devastating report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which found Labour had acted unlawfully in its handling of the anti-Semitism crisis which has rocked the party.

The suspension came after Mr Corbyn’s successor Sir Keir Starmer said that if anyone claimed the issue had been exaggerated or was a “factional attack”, then they were “part of the problem”.

Mr Corbyn’s refusal to withdraw the remarks led to the decision to suspend him by the party’s general secretary David Evans, an ally of Sir Keir.

It marks the latest development in Sir Keir’s efforts to distance himself from his predecessor.

Sir Keir’s remarks were delivered from a podium reading “a new leadership”, just to underline the point.

Mr Corbyn, who frequently complained about elements in Labour headquarters trying to undermine him when he was leader, hit out at the “political intervention” which saw him suspended.

“I will strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me,” he said.

“I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an anti-Semitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong.”

John McDonnell, who was Mr Corbyn’s shadow chancellor, said the suspension was “profoundly wrong” but urged the former leader’s supporters to remain calm.

He said: “On the day we should all be moving forward and taking all steps to fight anti-Semitism, the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is profoundly wrong.

“In (the) interests of party unity, let’s find a way of undoing and resolving this.

“I urge all party members to stay calm as that is the best way to support Jeremy and each other. Let’s all call upon the leadership to lift this suspension.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “I’m devastated that it’s come to this. Today should be about really listening, and reading the report and taking in the report.

“It’s a day of shame for the Labour Party and the findings were stark.

“Jeremy is a fully decent man, but as Margaret Hodge said, he has an absolute blind spot, and a denial, when it comes to some of these issues and that’s devastating.”

She rejected Mr Corbyn’s assertion that anti-Semitism had been exaggerated and said the findings of the EHRC bring “shame on us”.

“And there’s no mitigation of that, and we have to acknowledge that and do something about it,” Ms Rayner added.

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who clashed repeatedly with Mr Corbyn while he was leader, said the suspension was “the right decision following Corbyn’s shameful reaction to the EHRC report”.

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