Britain's opposition Labour party suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday for seeking to deflect blame away from himself after a report found that under his leadership the party was responsible for unlawful harassment and discrimination.
Corbyn's successor, Sir Keir Starmer, apologised and said Labour was facing a "day of shame" after the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the British government’s watchdog on racism, found serious failings in how the party had dealt with allegations of antisemitism within its ranks.
Corbyn's tenure was marred by persistent complaints of antisemitism in the party and criticism of the leader's response.
He was suspended after saying he did not accept all the report's findings, that his attempts at reforming complaints processes had been stalled by "obstructive party bureaucracy" and that the scale of the problem had been overstated for political reasons.
"In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation," Labour said in a statement.
The party added it had removed the Labour whip from Corbyn, meaning that the former leader will no longer be able to take part in House of Commons votes as a Labour lawmaker.
Starmer said he accepted the EHRC's report "in full" and would implement all its recommendations.
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"It is a day of shame for the Labour Party. We have failed Jewish people... I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused," said Starmer, who held a senior role under Corbyn's leadership but has tried to stamp out the problem since taking over.
"Never again will we fail to tackle antisemitism and never again will we lose your trust."
Among its recommendations, which are legally binding, was that Labour “must live up to its commitment to be a political party with zero tolerance of antisemitism” and give anti-racism training to its staff and members.
The report, the most exhaustive and significant one published to date about Labour’s antisemitism problem, was started in May 2019. It is the first time the government commission has had to focus on a mainstream political party.
“Our investigation found that the Labour Party breached the Equality Act 2010 by committing unlawful harassment through the acts of its agents in two of the complaints we investigated,” said the report, which is based on hundreds of testimonies and cases.
There have been “serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints across the Labour Party, and we have identified multiple failures in the systems it uses to resolve them,” the report said.
The report is a significant development in the internal struggle within Labour between Corbyn loyalists and centrist allies of the movement’s new leader, Keir Starmer, who was elected in April.
Thursday’s report is not the first of its kind: In 2016, an inter-parliamentary review produced a damning report on Corbyn, who among other actions praised a mural of Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of Black men; placed a wreath on a monument commemorating the Palestinian Black September terrorists and endorsed a blanket boycott of Israel.
Corbyn had vowed to kick out anyone caught making antisemitic statements and indeed some members of the party were expelled for this under Corbyn. But others were not disciplined, including former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Adolf Hitler was in cahoots with Zionists.
Starmer, a centrist politician, has apologized to British Jews for the growth of antisemitic sentiment in the party’s ranks under his predecessor, calling it “a stain” and vowing to “demonstrate a change of leadership” to “restore the trust of the Jewish community.”
Labour’s membership and overall makeup changed during Corbyn’s tenure as leader, which began in 2015. Long the country’s center-left mainstay and the political home for most British Jews, the party swerved far to the left. Corbyn has proposed to introduce a land value tax on real-estate properties in areas in high demand; alleviate student debt and has remained neutral on Brexit amid support for it among his anti-globalist base.
By 2019, about 50 Labour lawmakers had either quit the party or resigned posts to protest Corbyn’s leadership, including on antisemitism. Several of them had Jewish ancestry, including Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews addressed this point in their reaction to the report.
Corbyn “will rightly be blamed for what he has done to Jews and Labour, but the truth is more disturbing as he was little more than a figurehead for old and new anti-Jewish attitudes. All of this was enabled by those who deliberately turned a blind eye,” their statement read.