Corbyn ‘may stand as independent’ if Labour do not restore whip

Supporters believe former leader could win in Islington North after Keir Starmer suggests he may not be eligible to run for Labour

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters expect him to stand as an independent in Islington North at the next general election if he is not allowed to represent the Labour party – and believe he would have a good chance of winning.

Keir Starmer has said Corbyn, his predecessor as Labour leader, may not be able to stand as a Labour candidate in the constituency he has represented since 1983 unless the party whip is restored after it was suspended amid a row over antisemitism.

With a general election unlikely until at least 2023, no decision has been taken by Corbyn. But backers now expect him to follow the example of Ken Livingstone, who stood as London mayor in 2000 despite not having been selected to run for Labour.

Corbyn won the seat with 63.4% of the vote in 2019 and a thumping majority of 26,188. His supporters believe he would be able to win despite having had the party whip removed, and would likely be joined in the campaign by members who have drifted away from Labour under Starmer’s leadership.

On Friday, Starmer said he had not spoken to Corbyn in more than a year and repeated his insistence that the ball was in his predecessor’s court when it came to having the whip restored.

Asked whether it was likely Corbyn would not be able to stand as a Labour candidate, Starmer replied: “I don’t know, but at the moment that may be the case.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Starmer added: “He’s not got the whip at the moment, so he’ll be able to run, but wouldn’t be able to as a Labour MP. It’s up to him … he knows what he must do in order to move this forward. He’s not chosen to do so – that’s his choice.”

The Labour leader said he and Corbyn had not spoken together since the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism in the party in October 2020.

Corbyn was suspended from Labour after he said antisemitism in the party was “overstated” following the publication of the report. His suspension was lifted by the party’s national executive committee after he issued a conciliatory statement clarifying his remarks, but Starmer ordered that the Labour whip be withheld from him, in effect suspending him from the parliamentary party.

The Labour leader’s refusal to readmit Corbyn as an MP prompted a furious backlash from leftwingers including Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Richard Burgon, who accused Starmer of jeopardising party unity.

Corbyn has been threatening legal action over Starmer’s decision. He believes his suspension was handled unfairly and was the object of political interference. Court backlogs mean it may be some time before the case is heard even if he does proceed.

In January, Corbyn lost a legal fight to force Labour to hand over documents that his lawyers believed would help him show that an agreement to fully readmit him to the party following his suspension had been reneged upon. Labour denied in court that any such deal existed.

Starmer, who repeatedly promised during his leadership campaign to tackle antisemitism, also told Political Thinking he hoped Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP who left the party over its handling of antisemitism cases during Corbyn’s tenure, would want to rejoin.

Contributors

Heather Stewart and Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

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