NEW YORK (VINnews) — British opposition leader Keir Starmer has initiated a purge of far-left factions of the Labour party which were the most vociferous supporters of former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies, was suspended from the party leadership in October 2019 after stating that “the scale of the problem [of anti-Semitism in Labour] was dramatically overstated for political reasons by opponents and the media.”Click to get Text Message Updates right to your phone
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Starmer took a dim view of Corbyn’s equivocation, stressing that “Under my leadership, zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism will mean precisely that. If you’re anti-Semitic, you should be nowhere near this Party. And we’ll make sure you’re not.
“And if – after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report, there are still those who think there’s no problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, that it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack, then, frankly, you are part of the problem too. And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either.”
True to his policies, Starmer has asked Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to ban Resist, Labour Against The Witchhunt, which claims antisemitism allegations were politically motivated, and the Labour In Exile Network, which expressly welcomes expelled or suspended members. Another group, Socialist Appeal, which describes itself as a “Marxist voice of Labour” is also slated to be banned. Any member of the four groups could be automatically expelled from the party.
The move has angered left-leaning members of the pary who believe Starmer is trying to eradicate the entire left wing of the party. However Starmer claims that these groups are “poisonous” and must be banned from the party. It is unclear whether this is merely in line with his pledge to eradicate anti-Semitism from Labour or motivated from a desire to remove all extreme-left-wing allies of Corbyn and push the party to the right in an attempt to appeal to more centrist voters.
Norman Thomas, who founded the Labour In Exile Network, said in a statement: “There is wide agreement Starmer is pretty pathetic at fighting the Tories, but he’s in overdrive when it comes to attacking his own members. He has destroyed democracy in Labour to get rid of the thousands of people who joined after Jeremy Corbyn became leader.”
A Labour spokesperson said: “Labour is a broad, welcoming and democratic party and we are committed to ensuring it stays that way. From time to time, there are groups the NEC will proscribe. The NEC will be asked on Tuesday to consider whether these four organisations are compatible with Labour’s rules or our aims and values.”
A number of prominent former members have been suspended in recent months. Corbyn himself was suspended from the party and Starmer has repeatedly refused to recognize Corbyn’s membership in the party, known in party jargon as “restoring the whip”, despite Corbyn’s attempts to issue a conciliatory statement regarding his previous dismissal of anti-Semitism. The NEC however had reaccepted Corbyn to the party after he said that his previous claim was an “exaggeration.”