Jeremy Corbyn to stand as independent at general election

<span>Corbyn’s allies say research suggests he commands a personal vote seven times higher than the average constituency MP.</span><span>Photograph: Krisztián Elek/Sopa Images/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Corbyn’s allies say research suggests he commands a personal vote seven times higher than the average constituency MP.Photograph: Krisztián Elek/Sopa Images/Rex/Shutterstock

Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed he will stand as an independent candidate in Islington North, vowing to fight for equality, democracy and peace.

The former Labour leader, who has held the seat for more than 40 years, said he would defend policies that had not been adopted by Labour or the Conservatives, including rent controls and the abolition of the two-child benefits cap.

He was blocked from standing again for Labour, and suspended for remarks he made after the equalities watchdog report into antisemitism in the party. The decision means Corbyn has been expelled from the Labour party.

The Guardian understands Corbyn had hoped to announce his plans to stand next Tuesday, but Rishi Sunak’s snap election announcement forced him to bring the announcement forward.

A close ally said Corbyn had always wanted to notify his constituents first, so he announced his intentions in an article for the Islington Tribune.

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Writing in the newspaper, he said: “When I was first elected, I made a promise to stand by my constituents no matter what … In Islington North, we keep our promises.”

Corbyn’s allies told the Guardian last year he was intending to stand as an MP, citing research they had undertaken in the constituency suggesting a win was possible because he commanded a personal vote seven times higher than the average constituency MP.

Corbyn criticised Labour’s decision to stop local members from taking part in shortlisting candidates, urging members to “stand up and defend our rights”.

Last year, 98% of attenders at a local party monthly general meeting backed a motion thanking Corbyn for his “commitment and service to the people”, adding it was members’ “democratic right to select our MP”.

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Labour has shortlisted Sem Moema, a member of the London assembly, and Praful Nargund, an Islington councillor, to run against Corbyn, in what is likely to be a testy battle. The winner of Labour’s selection process will be announced on 1 June.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said Corbyn’s choice to stand as an independent was a matter for him, adding: “We will have an excellent Labour candidate in Islington North, as we’ve got excellent Labour candidates across the country.

“But in the end, this election is about a choice, a choice of five more years of the chaos and division that we’ve seen over the last 14 years, or turning the page and rebuilding our country with Labour. That is what’s on the ballot paper, whether it’s in Islington North or anywhere else across the country.”

The leftwing grassroots group Momentum criticised Starmer for blocking Corbyn from standing again as a Labour candidate.

Kate Dove, the co-chair of the group said: “This is an almighty mess for Labour and Keir Starmer alone bears responsibility. Starmer’s attacks on Jeremy were never just about one man – they were about driving out the socialist politics he represented, in favour of elite interests.”

Appealing to lifelong Labour voters to support him, Corbyn said: “I am here to represent the people of Islington North on exactly the same principles that I’ve stood by my whole life: social justice, human rights and peace.”

He went on to say “these principles are needed now more than ever before”, vowing to defend “a genuine alternative to the corrupt years of this Tory government”, including pushing for rent controls, public ownership of energy and water, the abolition of the two-child benefits cap, a Green New Deal, and an ethical foreign policy based on peace and human rights.

Corbyn led Labour for nearly five years, and had been supported by Momentum since his 2015 leadership campaign. While the leftwing group is understood to be backing the Labour party in the election campaign, insiders have acknowledged a number of members may quit the party in order to back Corbyn’s campaign, alongside other independent candidates.