politics

Keir Starmer says 'ball is in Jeremy Corbyn's court' over return of Labour whip


The Labour leader said his predecessor had to apologise to return to the parliamentary ranks – and insisted the party was not more divided than ever after a frontbencher dramatically resigned

Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn
Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn

Keir Starmer has said it is up to Jeremy Corbyn whether he gets the Labour whip back as the “ball is in Jeremy’s court”.

The party leader insisted that his predecessor had to apologise for remarks he made last year on anti-Semitism before he could sit as a Labour MP once more.

Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour last year after he said that problems with anti-Semitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

His comments followed the publication of a damning report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which found the party had broken equalities laws with its handling of complaints of anti-Jewish hate.

Mr Corbyn later sought to clarify his remarks and his party membership was restored several weeks later.








Ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at a fringe event at Labour conference
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Image:

Getty Images)



But the party whip has not been restored to him, which means he currently sits as an independent MP.

Speaking at the Labour conference in Brighton, Mr Starmer said: “Well, the position today is exactly as it was when we last spoke, which is an issue between Jeremy, and the chief whip. And it is unresolved.

“It has been going on for months and the ball is in Jeremy’s court.

“Jeremy was asked to apologise to take down the post that caused the problem the first place and to work with us.

“But I am trying to turn our party from a party that spends far too much time talking to itself to a party that talks to the country about the issues that matter to the country.”

Earlier, Mr Corbyn said he believed he should be admitted back into the parliamentary party after having his membership restored.

He told a fringe event: “I don’t think the Parliamentary Labour Party should try to gainsay what the National Executive has decided so as far as I am concerned there is no case other than I should be reinstated on the Labour whip.”




He refused to say whether he would stand as an independent MP at the next election if the whip is not restored.

In a series of interviews, Mr Starmer denied Labour was more divided than ever – after Andy McDonald dramatically quit as Shadow Employment Rights Secretary mid-conference.

He said Mr McDonald was “wrong” to allege the divide has widened within the party since he took over as leader.

And he risked further damaging relations with the left of the party by opposing a £15-an-hour minimum wage – one key reason Mr McDonald cited in his resignation.

Labour sources have suggested there was no sense of sadness in the leader’s office to see Mr McDonald go.

But Mr Starmer told Sky News: “I’m not happy to see him go, I thanked him.”

He also admitted to “huge agreements and disagreements” with his deputy Angela Rayner.

The Labour leader said he had spoken to Ms Rayner about her attack on the “scum” in the Tory government – but it is understood that he stopped short of scolding her.

He said: “We have different styles Angela and I, I wouldn’t have used the words that she used.”


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