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Mon, 15 April 2024

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By Bishop of Leeds
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Jeremy Corbyn Formally Banned From Standing As Labour MP

Jeremy Corbyn has been blocked from standing as a Labour MP by the party's National Executive Committee (NEC). (Alamy)

5 min read

Jeremy Corbyn has been blocked by Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) from standing as a Labour MP over his claim that issues with antisemitism in the party were exaggerated under his leadership.

The motion to prevent the former party leader contesting his seat in Islington North on behalf of Labour at the next general election was put forward by current leader Keir Starmer and passed with 22 votes to 12. 

"Mr Corbyn will not be endorsed by the NEC as a candidate on behalf of the Labour party at the next general election," the committee confirmed on Tuesday. 

"The general secretary [will] write to Mr Corbyn immediately after this meeting to advise him of the above."

Last month Starmer pledged to block Corbyn from standing as a Labour MP and proposed it as a motion to the NEC at a press conference announcing that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had taken the party out of special measures over the issue of antisemitism. 

The watchdog's chief Marcial Boo said the commission had been "content with the actions taken" by the party to tackle antisemitism. 

Corbyn had the Labour whip removed in November 2020 after claiming accusations of antisemitism in the party under his leadership had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”. 

His remarks were in response to a report by the EHRC that found Jews had been harassed and discriminated against by Labour under his leadership. He has repeatedly refused to withdraw his remarks. 

While Corbyn is blocked from standing as an MP, and has had the party whip removed meaning he currently stands as an independent in the Commons, he will remain a member of the Labour party. 

In a statement ahead of the vote, Corbyn said Starmer's attempts to block him represented "a leadership increasingly unwilling to offer solutions that meet the scale of the crises facing us all". 

"As the government plunges millions into poverty and demonises refugees, Keir Starmer has focused his opposition on those demanding a more progressive and humane alternative," he said.

"I joined the Labour party when I was 16 years old because, like millions of others, I believe in a redistribution of wealth and power.

"Our message is clear: we are not going anywhere. Neither is our determination to stand up for a better world."

Corbyn has not yet commented on the NEC's decision. It is now widely expected that Corbyn, who remains an MP, will run as an independent in his constituency of Islington North at the next election.

Former shadow chancellor and longtime Corbyn ally John McDonnell has called on the party to reverse the "divisive" decision.

"With election in 18 months we need a united party to win a Labour government," McDonnell wrote on Twitter. 

"This decision will be seen as divisive and brutal, victimising someone who has given his life to our movement. We need a campaign in CLPs and affiliates to reverse this decision."

One senior Labour MP told PoliticsHome they believed "it's the right thing to draw a line" by preventing Corbyn from standing as a Labour MP, and questioned the relevance of the row to "most people outside of Twitter".

"The Labour party has always been a broad church but if you are harming it more than helping it then it's not for you," they said. 

Last month polling by Savanta for PoliticsHome found that while the majority of the public (55 per cent) think Starmer is right to block Corbyn, 64 per cent said it will not influence how they vote. 

Senior Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge told PoliticsHome the NEC's decision was "inevitable". 

"Given Corbyn’s persistent refusal to accept the EHRC report and Starmer’s determination to root out antisemitism, this is inevitable," she said. 

"This is just another sign that Corbyn is yesterday's man and the party has moved on."

Mike Katz, national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) which brought about the EHRC's investigation into the party, told PoliticsHome he is "not worried" if Corbyn chooses to run as an independent describing Labour's decision to block him as "a natural consequence".

"Corbyn isn’t being traduced or maligned or picked upon. He’s being forced to own the consequences of his actions," said Katz.

"I’m not worried if he runs as an independent – if lots of true believers think supporting him is more important than securing a Labour victory the country desperately needs, well that speaks volumes about their priorities. They joined with him, they can leave with him."

Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer. (Alamy)Labour's Islington North Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has condemned the NEC's decision to unilaterally block Corbyn, arguing decisions on candidates are usually made on a local level.

"We believe in the democratic right of all constituency parties to choose their prospective parliamentary candidate," Islington North CLP officers said in a statement.

"Therefore, we reject the NEC's undue interference in Islington North, which undermines our goal of defeating the Conservatives and working with our communities for social justice."

A spokesperson for Momentum, a left-wing Labour grassroots movement founded following Corbyn's election as Labour leader in 2015, told PoliticsHome they saw the situation as an "anti-democratic stitch-up". 

"Keir Starmer was elected on a pledge to end NEC stitch-ups and let local members decide their candidates," they said.

"Yet at a stroke his paper bans a former party leader from seeking the Labour nomination in a constituency he has won 10 times and represented for over 40 years.

"This unjust decision drives a massive wedge within the Labour party and risks alienating the millions of people, especially young people, who were energised by Jeremy's socialist politics."

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