Jeremy Corbyn has hinted he will run as an independent candidate at the next general election, after he was formally blocked from standing for Labour.
Following a motion put forward by Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) voted 22-12 not to endorse the former Labour leader standing in his Islington North constituency at the next election. Starmer first ruled out the left-wing veteran standing again for Labour last month, as he insisted the party had undergone a transformation under his leadership.
But Corbyn has since released a statement in response to his exclusion, which suggests he may now run against Labour. He said: “The NEC’s decision to block my candidacy for Islington North is a shameful attack on party democracy, party members and natural justice.
“Now, more than ever, we should be offering a bold alternative to the government’s programme of poverty, division and repression. Keir Starmer has instead launched an assault on the rights of his own Labour Party members, breaking his pledge to build a united and democratic party that advances social, economic and climate justice.
“I will not be intimidated into silence. I have spent my life fighting for a fairer society on behalf of the people of Islington North, and I have no intention of stopping now.”
Corbyn was suspended from Labour in October 2020 over his response to an EHRC report which found that under his leadership, the party had been responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination relating to antisemitism. Corbyn’s membership was later reinstated, but Starmer refused to restore the party whip - meaning he sits as an independent MP.
The NEC did not explicitly mention the issue of antisemitism in its vote. Instead, it said Labour’s electoral prospects in the seats it needed to win at the next election would be “significantly diminished” should Corbyn be a candidate for the party.
Prior to the motion, a senior source told PA: “Keir Starmer has made clear that Jeremy Corbyn won’t be a Labour Party candidate at the next general election. The Labour Party now is unrecognisable from the one that lost in 2019.”
Starmer’s move has been criticised by those towards the left of the party, where Corbyn still has support. John McDonnell, a friend and ally of Corbyn, said the decision was a “really bad mistake”.
He told Times Radio: “This is so divisive, and it’ll demoralise quite a few people. And actually, I think it might, in many ways, cost us votes in a number of constituencies.”
Meanwhile, MP Nadia Whittome described the motion as “divisive, an attack on party democracy and a distraction”, and Jon Lansman, co-founder of the Momentum pressure group, which backs Corbyn, said: “Keir Starmer, unfortunately, is behaving as if he was some kind of Putin of the Labour Party. That is not the way we do politics.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan however was less critical, saying that while he had not seen the evidence before the NEC, “I’m quite clear that what Keir Starmer is doing is changing our party for the better” and “making sure that the issue of antisemitism is dealt with”.
In an earlier statement in response to his ban, Corbyn said on social media: “Today, Keir Starmer has broken his commitment to respect the rights of Labour members and denigrated the democratic foundations of our party.
“I have been elected as the Labour MP for Islington North on 10 consecutive occasions since 1983. I am proud to represent a community that supports vulnerable people, joins workers on the picket line and fights for transformative change.
“This latest move represents 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.”
“I joined the Labour Party when I was 16 years old because, like millions of others, I believed 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.”