In the face of misreadings or wilful distortions of Corbyn’s response to the EHRC’s report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, Hilary Wainwright sets out the accurate facts and argues that to implement the EHRC’s recommendations in a concerted manner and to be a united alternative to a Tory government, Corbyn’s suspension must be lifted.
Following his suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, ‘pending investigation’ in reaction to Corbyn’s response to the report of the Equality and Human Right’s Commission (EHRC) on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, its leader Keir Starmer has been repeatedly declaring his commitment to ‘the unity of the Labour Party’. It’s strange therefore, that he did not welcome the conclusion of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the EHRC’s report in which he supported the Commission’s recommendations and urged that they be ‘swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.’ This and Corbyn insistence that ‘anyone claiming there is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is wrong’ plus Corbyn’s ‘regret that it took longer to deliver the changes’ (recommended in a report on the problem set up by Corbyn in 2016) than it should provided a strong basis of uniting to finally address the problem adequately and then to take on a Tory government, increasingly seen by the British people as inhumane and incompetent in it’s mishandling of Covid-19. Instead, Starmer chose to react only to Corbyn’s statement that ‘One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media’.
It is clear from any fair reading of Corbyn’s statement that he made this remark not to deny anti-Semitism in the party but to put it in perspective. A perspective supported by the facts: notably a poll by Survation showing that a UK majority thought, on the basis of media coverage, that anti-Semitism complaints related to 34% of Labour members. The reality is in fact 0.3%.
And stating this fact does not, as Corbyn makes clear, diminish the serious fight against anti-Semitism. In fact the EHRC’s report has an explicit paragraph on Labour Party members’ freedom of expression under the UK Human Rights Act, that allows exactly the kind of remark made by Corbyn when it says ‘Article 10 (of the Human Rights Act, under which the EHRC works) will protect Labour Party members who, for example, make legitimate criticisms of the Israeli government, or express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law.’
If the suspension of Corbyn is upheld, leading to expulsion, Starmer is in effect breaking the Human Rights Act by ending this protection of the rights of party members to express their views as part the party’s democratic debate. Strong voices, for instance, Len Mcluskey, the leader of the largest UK trade UNITE, have called for Corbyn’s reinstatement. And tens of thousands of party members, and growing, are signing a petition making the same demand. But Starmer is determined; he knows what he is doing. He is following the electoral formula of Tony Blair: attack/destroy the left and the vote will go up. In the short term it worked – before it came near to destroying the Labour Party which at its strongest is a coalition of the left whose success (and survival) depends on debate and the free expression of it’s members.
 Own emphasis; page 27 of the EHRC report
Originally published in the Greek left-wing newspaper Epohi