McCluskey accuses Starmer of reneging on his promise to reinstate Corbyn

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McCluskey accuses Starmer of reneging on his promise to reinstate Corbyn


Len McCluskey first revealed his detailed recollections of negotiations with Keir Starmer to readmit Jeremy Corbyn to Labor, and accused the leader of reneging on his private promises.

The former Unite general secretary, who resigned last month, said Starmer “risks becoming stuck in the public mind as someone who cannot be trusted.” Writing in the Guardian, he reports on private conversations – a section written in review copies of his memoir, Always Red, due to his sensitivity.

Key union sources close to the negotiations fought back at McCluskey’s version of events, providing clarification for the first time. They denied that there had been a behind-the-scenes deal to readmit Corbyn, who was suspended for a statement he made in October 2020 following the report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. man (EHRC) on anti-Semitism in the party during his leadership.

They told the Guardian the disparity occurred because Corbyn refused to suppress his original statement. A senior official claimed that the National Executive Committee (NEC) had requested and expected the former leader to do so.

“Len can’t admit that even he couldn’t get Jeremy to apologize or withdraw his initial statement,” a senior official said.

In his initial response to the EHRC report, which revealed serious shortcomings, Corbyn admitted that “one anti-Semite is one too many”, but said the problem was “considerably overestimated for political reasons” by opponents. and the media.

McCluskey claims Starmer then personally ordered the suspension of the former party leader – a move that would run counter to the equality watchdog’s decision that there should be no political interference in the issues disciplinary.

He also claims Starmer reneged on a Corbyn readmission deal after a new statement was released. Although the party’s governing body restored the former leader’s membership, Starmer did not reinstate the Labor whip.

In his Guardian article, McCluskey says he remembered the words Starmer used when he called him to tell him about Corbyn’s suspension. “His words were, ‘He put me in an impossible position and I had no choice’… He told me over the phone that Corbyn had deliberately undermined him. “It is as if he has done everything possible to contradict that line of my speech,” he said. “I’m more than angry with Jeremy. “

Starmer and Corbyn at the 2017 Labor Party Conference. Photographie : Un Davidson/Rex/Shutterstock

Union sources denied that the words amounted to an admission that Starmer ordered the suspension.

People familiar with the situation at the chief’s office said the party’s chief legal officer gave General Secretary David Evans his opinion that the EHRC’s findings meant Corbyn was to be suspended and Evans was to be suspended. OK. Starmer was in the room at the time.

“Keir couldn’t have ordered the suspension. He had been briefed on several occasions by the EHRC of the implications of this report – he took it very seriously, ”a senior official said.

The day after the decision, McCluskey and MP Jon Trickett met with Starmer, his then chief of staff Morgan McSweeney, and deputy chief Angela Rayner.

“Rayner started by asking that our discussion be confidential. Considering what happened afterwards, I don’t feel bound by this anymore, ”said McCluskey. “Trickett and I asked if there was a way to negotiate a settlement to avoid an internal war. Starmer replied that he did not want a war and was happy to discuss ways to reach a solution.

“He indicated that a clarifying statement from Corbyn might be one way to resolve the issue. “Are you saying if we could come up with an agreed form of words that Jeremy and you, Keir, are happy with, then the suspension could be lifted?” ” I asked. “Yes,” Starmer said. The others also agreed.

McCluskey claimed that Trickett and Starmer’s senior adviser Simon Fletcher had developed a draft statement which was discussed on a conference call with McSweeney. “I said,” As far as we’re concerned, we expect that if Jeremy accepts the statement, then that’s the end of the matter and the stay will be lifted, after due process, and Jeremy will be off. back to normal. . ‘

“McSweeney’s response was, ‘Yes, that’s also our expectation. – And you speak for Keir? I asked. “Yes,” came his response. “

McCluskey said he was “so confident that I submitted it for use in Jeremy Corbyn’s legal challenge against the whip removal and that I will support him in court.” Labor has said there are currently no court challenges pending the whip’s withdrawal.

Senior officials close to Starmer said Corbyn’s allies were told they expected, based on precedents, that the former leader would be readmitted with a warning, but say it was not a promise to put the process in place, but only a way to encourage it. retract and apologize.

“There was, categorically, no agreement on reinstatement, only a discussion of what we expected to happen,” the source said. “McCluskey demanded a number of things that would have undone the whole process and we said no. “

The source said Starmer would have appreciated the statement if it had been released over the weekend, but claimed McCluskey was unable to sign it with Corbyn because he had been to the island of Wight.

Corbyn released his statement several weeks later ahead of the disciplinary hearing. He said: “To be clear, concerns about anti-Semitism are neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overestimated’… The point I wanted to make was that the vast majority of Labor Party members were and remain staunch, deeply anti-racists. opposed to anti-Semitism.

Later today, a five-person panel at the NEC said his suspension could be lifted with a warning.

“I don’t know if Starmer was taken by surprise by the backlash, but it quickly became clear that he was going to collapse,” McCluskey said. “Starmer reneged on our deal… Corbyn has now been told that if he wanted the whip to be restored, he would have to apologize – which begged the question: if an apology was so important to leaders, why not Didn’t they include one in the statement they co-wrote? “

Sources close to Starmer say the sticking point remains that Corbyn has not retracted his original statement, which remains online.

“Jeremy knows what to do – and it’s still unclear why he doesn’t delete the original statement,” a senior official said. “If that doesn’t happen, it’s hard to argue that you regret it. He could just hit delete. The ball is in his court. “

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