There were protests at the move. It was rumoured that a group of other Labour MPs would resign from the party in protest, although later it appeared that the group consisted only of Margaret Hodge, who hasn’t. There was talk of old wounds being opened, but this was merely BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg overstepping the impartiality line again.
So the ruckus should have been allowed to die down: Corbyn has received what amounts to a formal warning. But, it seems, new leader Keir Starmer has decided otherwise. He’s going to pick a fight over l’Affaire Jezza. But, it has to be asked, who is he fighting?
Here’s what he said earlier. “Since I was elected Labour leader, I have made it my mission to root out antisemitism from the Labour Party. I know that I will 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 antisemitism … In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review”.
I am reminded of what Lyndon Johnson said about giving a speech on economics: this may have sounded hot to Starmer, but it won’t to the people he’s actually addressing. Because those people want Jezza out of the party of which he has been a member for more than half a century. Tinkering round the edges will not do for them.
It won’t stop the howling from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, whose main man Gideon Falter was incandescent at the news of Corbyn’s reinstatement. Not restore the whip? Pah! He wants immediate re-suspension, presumably until he gets a decision that meets with his approval. Nor will it impress bodies like the Community Security Trust and its main man Dave Rich. Or a myriad of other Jezza haters
Starmer’s decision is a lose with those actors. Worse, it’s a lose with many of the people who keep Labour afloat: the party’s members. All those who pay their subs, volunteer to knock doors, leaflet, run party stalls and events, and generally promote the Labour brand on behalf of the leadership. Many of them have already left - more than 50,000.
That may be not unconnected to their being unable to see why a lifelong anti-Racist should have the bad behaviour of some members dumped solely upon his shoulders. We know the issue of rooting out anti-Semitism was not a simple or straightforward one - the EHRC report says so. We also know that Corbyn wanted the issue tackled urgently
What Starmer has done this morning is fail Lloyd George’s dictum: “you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps”. And what did LG preface that with? “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated”. All he’s done is to dodge the issue during PMQs.
As a result, the issue drags on and no-one is happy. And that doesn’t look good.
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