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Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as Labour candidate at next election, says Keir Starmer

Labour leader says party ‘is not going back’ as he warned those who did not like changes should leave

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 15 February 2023 09:13 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as Labour candidate at next election, Keir Starmer says

Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour candidate at the next general election, Keir Starmer has said, as he warned those resistant to changes in the party to leave.

In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Sir Keir invited his opponents on the Labour left to step away from the party, which he said was now “unrecognisable” from its form under his predecessor.

Mr Corbyn, who has been MP for Islington North since 1983, has been sitting as an independent since Sir Keir withdrew the Labour whip from him in October 2020.

The left-wing ex-leader has not yet said whether he would stand as an independent against an official Labour candidate, but some supporters believe he could win a contest because of strong local support.

“Jeremy Corbyn will not stand for Labour at the next general election as a Labour Party candidate. What I said about the Labour Party changing I meant, and we are not going back,” Sir Keir said.

“The Labour Party I lead today is unrecognisable from 2019. There are those who don’t like that change, who still refuse to see the reality of what had gone on under the previous leadership.

“To them, I say in all candour: we are never going back. If you don’t like it, nobody is forcing you to stay,” he added.

Critics of Mr Corbyn say that antisemitism ran rife in the party under his watch, while his defenders claimed the problem was exaggerated by opponents to undermine him politically.

The former Labour leader was suspended in October 2020 for saying that that while “one antisemite is one too many” he believed that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media”.

He was readmitted to the party as a rank-and-file member by a disciplinary panel, but then denied the parliamentary whip after a personal intervention by Sir Keir.

Sir Keir made his announcement as the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced that it had concluded its monitoring of the Labour Party for antisemitism.

Speaking in east London on Wednesday morning the Labour leader said antisemitism was “an evil” and “no political party that cultivates it deserves to hold power”.

“Today is an important moment in the history of the Labour Party. It’s taken many, many months of hard work and humility to get here,” Sir Keir said.

“It’s meant rebuilding trust, not just with the Jewish community but with all those who were rightly appalled by the culture of the party and the previous leadership.

“When I became leader, I said I would turn Labour around and give it back to the British people and the most important and urgent part of that was tearing out antisemitism by its roots.”

While Labour local parties have some degree of control over who they select as candidates, in practice the leadership exerts a significant degree of control and can effectively ban people from standing.

Sir Keir previously served on Mr Corbyn’s front bench as shadow Brexit secretary and won the leadership explicitly pledging to retain many of the policies adopted under his predecessor.

He had previously said of Mr Corbyn: “He’s a colleague, he’s a friend, and he’s led us through some really difficult times in the Labour party ... I respect him and thank him for what he’s done.”

Asked on Wednesday about his time serving under Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir said: “As you know, it’s a matter of record that on antisemitism I challenged the previous leader both in the shadow cabinet and publicly on that.

“And it’s absolutely clear that the Labour Party lost its way and that’s why I knew that my first duty as leader of the Labour Party was to change the Labour Party and to tear antisemitism out.”

A spokesperson for Momentum, a left-wing campaign group in the party aligned with Mr Corbyn, said: "Labour is a democratic socialist party - it's written on our membership cards.

“This party does not belong to one man alone - it belongs to its members & trade unions. It should be for Labour members in Islington North to decide their candidate - that is their democratic right."

Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) chair Mike Katz however said the party had been in "moral turpitude and political denial" under Mr Corbyn.

“It was JLM’s members that suffered the brunt of antisemitism in the party which is why we made the referral to the EHRC," Mr Katz said.

"As Keir said today, this is a milestone, not the end of a journey. JLM will always be vigilant and call out antisemitism. Those who deny it or downplay the problem should be booted out."

Writing for The Independent, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, said Sir Keir was "right to confirm" Mr Corbyn would not be a candidate for the party.

"Corbyn has been the master of his own destiny. His stubborn refusal to accept his role in allowing antisemitism to flourish, and his assertion that his opponents within the party had exaggerated the issue means he remains part of the problem and not the solution," she said.

Dame Margaret, a persistent critic of Mr Corbyn, went on to brand the ex-leader "a relic of yesterday".

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