Keir Starmer calls for Alastair Campbell to be let back into Labour after expulsion over Lib Dem vote
Sir Keir Starmer has called for Alastair Campbell to be allowed back into the Labour Party after he was booted out for backing the Liberal Democrats.
The Labour leadership hopeful - currently the bookies’ favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn - said the party should instead focus on tackling anti-semitism as he signalled he would readmit Tony Blair’s former communications chief.
Mr Campbell, an avowed opponent of Brexit who was Downing Street director of communications under Mr Blair, was expelled from Labour last May after he revealed that he had voted for the pro-EU Lib Dems at the European elections.
According to Labour Party rules, any member "who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party" will "automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member".
But, in an interview with HuffPost UK, Sir Keir said he would “want anybody who wants to be in our party to be in the party”.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary added: “Alastair is a constituent of mine. And he was a long standing Labour member, a huge contribution to the party. I think we need to get past this whole question of chucking people out and expulsions, etcetera.
“The cases we should concentrate on are cases, for example, of anti-Semitism or other racist behaviour within the party.
“And I use Alastair’s case an example to say, if you can be chucked out of the party, almost straight away, for supporting another party at a [euro] election, surely you can be chucked out of our party in an absolutely clear case of anti-Semitism, and the mismatch was huge there.”
Mr Campbell’s expulsion triggered a bitter row in Labour ranks at the time, with ex-Cabinet ministers Charles Clarke and Bob Ainsworth challenging party bosses to kick them out as well for backing the Lib Dems and Greens respectively.
The former Labour spin doctor said with “sadness” that he would not fight to rejoin the party because it “no longer truly represents my values, or the hopes I have for Britain” under the leadership of Mr Corbyn.
Elsewhere in his HuffPost interview, Sir Keir took a thinly-veiled swipe at Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell over his support for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Mr McDonnell has spoken out in defence of Mr Assange, who is being held on remand while the US tries to have him extradited over the publication of hundreds of thousands of confidential American military communications in 2010.
The Shadow Chancellor has rowed in behind the Wikileaks founder, saying he is in the centre of “a major political trial in which the establishment is out to victimise an innocent”.
But Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions said “independent” judges would make a decision on “whether the evidence is there to extradite someone”.
“So all of those in the Assange case or any other case, who say it’s all a big conspiracy are either missing the point that this is an independent judge-made decision or they’re implying that our High Court judiciary is corrupt,” he added.
“And I do not subscribe to that view by a very, very long shot. We’ve got a very good independent judiciary. It’s revered across the world. And we knock it at our peril.”
Sir Keir said: “It’s up to politicians what they want to campaign for or not, but on extradition High Court judges made the decision, they do it in open court with the evidence, and they give recent judgments, you can read the judgments and work out why the judge decided that an individual should be extradited.
“This is not done in secret. It’s not done without evidence, it’s not done without argument both sides have advocates, and then a judge makes a decision, they think the judges got it wrong, you can appeal. It’s a very simple system, it’s very good system, and it should be upheld.”