LONDON – Britain’s main opposition party, Labor, suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday after trying to divert blame for the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations.
Mr Corbyn spoke up after a human rights vigilante in the UK stated in the results of a formal investigation that the party was responsible for “unlawful harassment and discrimination” against Jewish members, compounding complaints that tarnished Mr Corbyn’s tenure as party leaders for a long time from 2015 to 2020.
Hours after Mr Corbyn posted a statement on Facebook accusing “opponents inside and outside the party” and the media of overstating Labour’s failings on anti-Semitism, the party said Mr Corbyn had been suspended.
“Given his comments today and his failure to withdraw them later, the Labor Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation,” the party said.
Before the suspension was announced, Keir Starmer, Mr Corbyn’s successor as party chairman, apologized to the watchdog report.
“I found this report difficult to read and it is a day of shame for the Labor Party,” he said, standing behind a lectern with the slogan “A New Leadership” – an unsubtle signal of his efforts to turn the party away from party politics the hard left and the sometimes divisive leadership of Mr. Corbyn. “We have abandoned the Jewish people, our members, our supporters and the British public.”
The watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission – an independent official body whose recommendations are legally enforceable – said it had investigated complaints about anti-Semitism and found that Labor leaders had interfered with the party’s own investigations into anti-Semitic incidents. This included a complaint against Mr Corbyn, who resigned as party leader in April.
Mr Starmer said the party has already taken steps to combat anti-Semitism, including changes in how complaints are handled.
The Commission’s report described that the party had created a culture that could at times be viewed as tolerant of anti-Semitism and alleged two former party officials making anti-Semitic statements which they believed constituted unlawful harassment.
Complaints about anti-Semitism sparked an exodus of Jewish lawmakers and Labor Party members during Mr Corbyn’s leadership, and contributed to a basic threshold of public discontent that culminated in Labor’s devastating loss in the December general election.
This vote, won by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, put Britain on an irreversible path to leave the European Union and gave Mr Johnson an overwhelming majority in Parliament.
Mr. Corbyn’s own response to the surveillance report confirmed anti-Semitism within the Labor Party, but at the same time cast the long-standing scandal as a creation of its political opponents.
In the statement on Facebook that sparked his suspension of Labor, he said he was trying to simplify the expulsion of anti-Semitic members and that his leadership team was only “engaged to expedite, not obstruct” the process.
“One anti-Semite is one too many, but the scale of the problem has been dramatically overestimated by our opponents inside and outside the party and by much of the media, also for political reasons,” he added. “This combination has hurt the Jewish people and must never be repeated.”