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Reinstate Jeremy - Unite to Fight the Tories

RICHARD BURGON MP argues that Jeremy Corbyn must be reinstated and the Labour Party united to take on the Tories

For decades, Jeremy Corbyn has stood in solidarity with oppressed people at home and abroad. A voice for the voiceless who always went that extra mile in the fight for justice and equality.

In struggle after struggle waged by the Labour and progressive movements, from opposition to the war on Iraq to opposing cruel Tory benefits cuts, Jeremy Corbyn has always stood with us. Now we need to stand with him.

There is now an important argument to be won to ensure that Jeremy is readmitted to the Labour Party following his suspension last week. To those thinking of quitting Labour, I say: Don’t Leave. Organise. Let’s win this.

For the Labour Party, the publication of the EHRC report should have been an opportunity to reflect and move forward together in the important battle against anti-semitism.

Instead, we are in the middle of a potentially historic division in the party, with a former Labour Party leader suspended.

If you didn’t read in full Jeremy’s response to the EHRC report then much of what he said may surprise you, given much of the media hasn’t exactly been helpful in giving a proper impression of his actual response.

You may not have known that Jeremy said — and I wholeheartedly agree with him — that “anti-semitism is absolutely abhorrent, wrong and responsible for some of humanity’s greatest crimes.” He said that as leader he “was always determined to eliminate all forms of racism and root out the cancer of anti-semitism.”

Jeremy also said: “Anyone claiming there is no anti-semitism in the Labour Party is wrong” and that “One anti-semite is one too many” in our party. He concluded by saying that the EHRC report recommendations should “be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.”

Instead of the report being a moment to move forward as a united party on how to defeat the evil of anti-semitism, there’s talk today of a civil war in the Labour Party.

That serves no-one but the Tory government. Our communities are being hit by the greatest health crisis in generations and the deepest economic fallout in decades.

So a top priority for the whole labour movement must be to unite to force the government to change track. Another must be to unite to fight the racism and scapegoating of Black and Jewish communities that I fear will soar across society as the economic crisis deepens.

I agree with the seven union general secretaries who have expressed “serious concerns about the manner of and rationale for suspension of the former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.” Like them, I truly hope that there can be a “unifying way forward.” Because people are not going to stand idly by while the former leader of the Labour Party is expelled.  

Some, of course, want this to be a moment to get rid of Corbynism as well as Corbyn. For example, former Labour MP Phil Wilson, who worked for Tony Blair for a number of years, wrote in the Independent that “Corbynism, in all its guises, needs to become an annex of Labour history, where future historians read the pain expressed in every word written and shudder with horror as they put down the book and say never, ever again.”

Such views are shared by powerful right-wing media outlets. A recent Daily Telegraph editorial calls for “a house cleaning” and for Keir to define himself by “taking on the far left”. It ends by claiming “It is time to drive Corbynism out of the Labour Party altogether.”

We should be clear what that means. Hundreds of thousands of members — especially younger members — and trade unionists driven out of the Labour Party. If that approach is taken then don’t be surprised if many other members respond by withdrawing their time, money and resources.

For those encouraging Keir to have a Kinnock moment, where he takes on the left to define his leadership, I would advise them to remember that Kinnock lost twice with a divided party.

Keir himself stood on a pledge of unity and building that unity is essential to winning the next election. Unity does not mean that we all agree — or even that we refrain from robust debate. 

For example, I have been calling for Labour’s front bench to go much further on its response to Covid including fighting for schools to be included in lockdown. And as the Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, I don't expect to agree with Progress and they will no doubt hope not to agree with me.

For me, unity means that the Labour Party remains a party of socialists, social democrats and trade unions. This attack on Jeremy will be interpreted by many as an attempt to drive socialists out of the party. That would weaken the movement as a whole.

Some may look at recent polls and see Keir effectively neck-and-neck with Boris Johnson and think now is the time to kick out the left. But Boris Johnson won’t be the Tory leader going into the next general election. The Tories will be ruthless and will have a fresh face ready by then.

In the middle of an enormous economic and social crisis, the British ruling class will not want a Labour government of any character. It will be an uphill fight for Keir to become PM — which is what I want to see — and he shouldn’t have that fight with one hand tied behind his back in the form of a divided party.

So the way forward is clear: Re-admit Jeremy. Unite to take the fight to the Tories.

Richard Burgon is Labour MP for Leeds East.

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