Keir Starmer has said Jeremy Corbyn could have predicted that his decision to play down the extent of antisemitism in Labour would lead to disciplinary action, and added that it was theoretically possible the former leader could be expelled from the party.
In a round of media interviews as Labour descended into infighting following Corbyn’s suspension for saying that antisemitism in Labour had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”, Starmer insisted he had had nothing to do with this disciplinary process.
But asked if possible disciplinary action against Corbyn could include expulsion, Starmer said: “Yes, people have been expelled from the Labour party.” Of 827 cases connected to antisemitism dealt with since he took over as leader in April, Starmer said, a third had been kicked out of the party.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “But it’s not for me to say what process should be followed, that’s for the general secretary, or what sanction is in order. I don’t want a civil war in the Labour party. I don’t think there’s any need for one. I want to unite the party. But I’m not going to renege on my commitment to root out antisemitism.”
Starmer said he had spelled out to Corbyn on Wednesday evening how he intended to respond to the damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which found Labour responsible for three legal breaches over antisemitism.
“I’m deeply disappointed in that response from Jeremy Corbyn yesterday not least because I spoke to him the night before the report to set out how I intended to deal with it,” he told Today.
“And from discussions yesterday morning I’m in no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn and his team knew exactly what I was going to say in my response about not only antisemitism but the denial and the arguments about exaggeration, and it’s just a factional fight.
“That is why appropriate action was taken yesterday by the general secretary in suspending Jeremy Corbyn. That’s the right acton – very difficult action, but the right action, which I fully support.”
Jeremy Corbyn is elected as Labour leader, and party membership soars to over half a million.
Naz Shah, a Labour MP, is suspended after sharing a Facebook post suggesting Israel should be relocated to the United States.
Labour publishes an inquiry into antisemitism by Shami Chakrabarti, but the release is overshadowed by a row about remarks made by Corbyn in which he appeared to make a comparison between the Israeli government and Islamist extremists.
Corbyn expresses regret after it emerged he had in 2012 supported a street artist accused of producing an antisemitic mural in London's east end.
Three days later, Corbyn issues his strongest condemnation yet of antisemitism, declaring he is “a militant opponent” of anti-Jewish hatred as members of the Jewish community organise a protest outside parliament. Corbyn makes many similar declarations in the run-up to the 2019 election.
Veteran Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge is subject to disciplinary proceedings after calling Corbyn an antisemite during an angry confrontation in the Commons chamber, after Labour chose not to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
Three Jewish newspapers produce similar front pages, criticising Labour’s decision not to adopt the IHRA definition. In a joint editorial they write that a Corbyn led government would pose an 'existential threat to Jewish life in this country'.
Corbyn declines to apologise after footage from 2013 emerges of him saying a group of Zionists had 'no sense of irony'. Corbyn said he had used the term Zionist 'in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people'.
Seven Labour MPs, including prominent Jewish member Luciana Berger, quit the party to found the short lived ChangeUK, in part accusing the party’s leadership of not doing enough to tackle antisemitism.
Labour is decisively defeated at the general election, prompting Corbyn to step down.
By Dan Sabbagh