Why I won’t be cheering the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn

Why I won’t be cheering the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn

Catherine Neilan

14:41 29th October 2020

Jeremy Corbyn was today suspended from the party he was leader of six months ago, after the long anticipated Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into Labour's handling of anti-Semitism under his tenure was published.

Sir Keir Starmer said the report marked "day of shame" for the party and promised to implement its findings in full. The new Labour leader warned members that those who "think there is no problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, that it's all exaggerated, and it's a factional attack" are "part of the problem too".

But while he had not been expected to take any action against his predecessor, Corbyn appeared to sign his own death warrant, when he put up a post on Facebook saying that while he believed "one anti-Semite is too many, the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons"

His refusal to retract this statement led to his swift suspension - something he now plans to "strongly contest" as a "political intervention", something which guarantees the party will be back in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, all over again.

Corbyn on Facebook

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I have no great admiration for Corbyn. His time as leader of the opposition diminished the party to such a degree that it paved the way for Boris Johnson's 80-seat majority last December. It was not just Brexit that he struggled to grapple with - as evidenced by Labour's washout in Scotland. Corbyn's response to the Salisbury poisoning was so poor that it prompted numerous Labour colleagues to defy their leader and vouch support for Theresa May's government.

It was always his attitude towards anti-Semitism that hit home hardest, and in many respects the EHRC is a vindication of the many, many Jewish people who were abused and then gas-lighted, made to feel that their experiences were not and could not have been real because of Corbyn's long-held stance towards racism.

In fact, Corbyn's stance was not dissimilar to those who counter "Black Lives Matter" with "All Lives Matter": he could not see that anti-Semitism was a distinct form of racism with its own particular dog whistles and tropes that elude radars set to a certain frequency.

Luciana Berger, one of the most visible victims of this abuse, left the party 18 months ago because of it.

She said today she was grateful for the report, but warned "there is a long road ahead before Labour can recover from this shameful period in its history".

In a statement, she added: "Party processes gave the antisemites cover. The party facilitated a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation against Jewish people from within its ranks. At every step of the way, Jeremy Corbyn enabled this to happen."

Some hours later, her reaction to Corbyn's claims was palpable:

Ultimately Starmer had no alternative but to suspend Corbyn for his words. If he is to bring Labour back from the brink of electoral oblivion, he must clear the house of any hint of lingering anti-Semitism. The now-independent MP for Islington North has shown again how tone deaf he is to this, and demonstrated exactly why the problem was able to fester under his tenure for so long. Let's not forget, this is a man who once said British Zionists "don't understand English irony".

But while I am pleased that the report vindicates all those who have suffered months of abuse and torment, and while I think the suspension was the right course of action I will not be cheering it.

For Corbyn fans the man can do no wrong. Anti-Semitism was always just a weapon that those on the right used to smear him. It is a tactic to deligimatise him. For the party faithful, his suspension is just the final chapter in the sorry story of the messiah brought down by the establishment.

The end result is therefore exactly the same: those who loved him continue to do so, while those who questioned his competence hunker down for another period of toxic discourse. And so the bubbles remain unburst and the parallel monologues continue.

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Tags: Anti-Semitism Labour Sir Keir Starmer Jeremy Corbyn