Left-wing MPs rally around Jeremy Corbyn as Keir Starmer declares there is 'no need' for a civil war

Tony Diver
·25-min read
Sir Keir Starmer said he was 'disappointed' in Jeremy Corbyn's statement - Jonathan Brady/PA
Sir Keir Starmer said he was 'disappointed' in Jeremy Corbyn's statement - Jonathan Brady/PA

Jeremy Corbyn's allies have rallied around him and called for his reinstatement as a Labour MP after he was suspended for suggesting the scale of anti-Semitism in the party had been exaggerated.

Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon and John McDonnell will attend an "online rally" this evening hosted by Momentum, the campaign group that supported Mr Corbyn for leader.

Ms Abbott has shared an online petition calling for the former leader's suspension to be lifted, even as key ally James Schneider said the left of the party should steer clear of a schism with Sir Keir Starmer's leadership.

Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, a left-wing union, has said a split would create "chaos" but objected strongly to the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn.

Sir Keir has insisted there is "no need for a civil war" in the party and said he does not believe there will be one, but said his predecessor's comments had made it difficult for the party to "draw a line in the sand and move on" from anti-Semitism.

Follow the latest updates below. 

05:06 PM

That's all from us

We're going to close the blog there, but we'll be back on Monday with all the latest from Westminster.

Today saw the fallout of yesterday's landmark decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour party for his comments on anti-Semitism during his time as leader.

Mr Corbyn's allies hit back against the decision and organised a petition and a rally against it.

Sir Keir Starmer said he would not comment on whether Mr Corbyn should be suspended until the outcome of the independent investigation.

The weekend will bring more briefing and argument over the party's decision. But for now, here's Davey's take on the day's news.

Davey
Davey

05:01 PM

Public thinks Labour was right to suspend Jeremy Corbyn, poll shows

The public overwhelmingly support the Labour Party's decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn for his comments on anti-Semitism, a new poll shows.

By a margin of 58 per cent to 13 per cent, the public supports the decision, but the driver of public opinion for the move doesn’t seem to be that people think Corbyn is anti-Semitic, YouGov said. 

While around a third (32 per cent) think he is, 25 per cent think he isn’t and many more, 43 per cent, say they don’t know either way.

1,852 GB adults were questioned on 29th – 30th October 2020.

04:30 PM

Daily coronavirus data update: Cases near 100,000

The Government said a further 274 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday. This brings the UK total to 46,229.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 61,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 24,405 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 989,745.

04:24 PM

Hospital numbers exceeding worst case scenario' even before new lockdown system

The Government's expert advisers said that coronavirus infections and hospital admissions were exceeding the worse case scenario planning levels four days before Boris Johnson announced the three-tier system of restrictions.

A document from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) summarising the Sage meeting of October 8 said incidence and prevalence across the UK continue to increase with data showing "clear increases" in hospital and ICU admissions, particularly in the North of England.

The paper said projections indicate the number of deaths is "highly likely" to exceed Reasonable Worst Case Scenario (RWCS) planning levels within the next two weeks.

"Well over 100 new deaths per day are projected to occur within 2 weeks, even if strict new interventions are put in place immediately," the document said, adding: "In all scenarios the epidemic is still growing."

Four days after the Sage meeting, on October 12, the Prime Minister announced England would be placed into "medium", "high" and "very high" alert levels - or Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 - under a new tier system of restrictions aimed at tackling the virus.

04:07 PM

Momentum to hold 'online rally'

The campaign group Momentum will tonight hold an "online rally" to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn as a Labour MP.

A press release described the suspension as a "pivotal moment for the Labour Party and the future of our movement" and a "factional attack that has undermined our fight against anti-Semitism.

03:31 PM

Governments have used Covid to divide the country, says Lib Dem leader

The Scottish and UK governments have used the coronavirus pandemic to try to divide the country, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has insisted.

He argued that coronavirus should have seen Holyrood and Westminster working more closely together.

Sir Ed said the UK and Scottish governments "must work together to give far more support to small businesses - especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors".

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader - JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader - JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT

He said one of the things that had made him "angriest" was "the way our governments - in Westminster and in Holyrood - have sought not to bring people together to solve this crisis, but instead to use the pandemic to divide our country".

This, he said, resulted in situations with "Tory ministers versus Labour mayors" and "Nicola Sturgeon versus Boris Johnson" - as well as "Matt Hancock versus reality".

Branding this a "truly unedifying spectacle", he added: "I'm sure it serves their egos and their narrow political interests, but it certainly doesn't serve the families and businesses who are struggling just to make ends meet."

03:15 PM

Diane Abbott calls for supporters to sign petition for Corbyn

Diane Abbott, who was shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, shared an online petition on Twitter calling for Labour to "reinstate" him after his suspension.

 So far, the petition has 2,336 signatures.

02:48 PM

Anti-Semitism a 'stain' on the Labour Party, says Drakeford

Mark Drakeford, Wales' First Minister, said anti-Semitism has been a "stain on the reputation of the Labour Party". But when asked whether it was the right decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Drakeford said: "I'm not going to answer questions in relation to individuals.

"The report itself on page 49 criticises the previous leadership for as they said interfering or attempting to influence formal procedures, and it says it is not legitimate for the leadership to influence formal complaints procedures.

"There is a formal process in train and I am not going to comment on it because the report, which I have welcomed, expressly tells me not to."

Mr Drakeford said he strongly supported the "policy platform" that the Labour Party stood on in the 2017 and 2019 elections and had "no regrets about that".

02:34 PM

Britain had a 'lucky escape' over Isle of Wight pirates, says former minister

The 228-metre, Liberian-registered oil tanker was carrying oil from Nigeria to the port of Southampton when it was subjected to a suspect hijacking by stowaways off the coast of the Isle of Wight -  Finnbarr Webster/ Getty Images Europe
The 228-metre, Liberian-registered oil tanker was carrying oil from Nigeria to the port of Southampton when it was subjected to a suspect hijacking by stowaways off the coast of the Isle of Wight - Finnbarr Webster/ Getty Images Europe

Britain had a 'lucky escape' over a suspected hijacking incident near the Isle of Wight, a former Transport Minister has said.

Nus Ghani said the UK was lucky the incident happened thirty miles from the headquarters of the Special Boat Service, and in a stretch of the Channel where there are regular naval exercises.

She added: "It is also fortunate that the Nave Andromeda was a Liberian-flagged vessel; it is easy to see how the situation could quickly have developed geopolitical complications if the vessel had been flying a Russian or Chinese flag, for example."

Ms Ghani's comments came in a foreword to a new report by the Policy Exchange think tank that calls for more investment in the UK shipping industry.

“The Government risks overlooking the Maritime sector in its economic response to the coronavirus crisis," she wrote. 

"Thus far, the Department for Transport has focused its attention primarily upon the aviation industry. There has not been comparable, or even near-comparable, engagement with the maritime sector.

"Both are key to British prosperity, to the movement of freight and people, and to the livelihood of many communities. The Government cannot choose between the two of them.”

01:43 PM

Tees Valley 'moving towards Tier 3'

An interesting tweet here from Mike Hill, the MP for Hartlepool, suggesting the Tees Valley will soon be in Tier 3.

01:39 PM

R rate falls by 0.1 in a week

The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK still remains above 1.

Data released on Friday by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) shows the estimate for R for the whole of the UK is between 1.1 and 1.3.

Last week, the R number was between 1.2 and 1.4.

R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.

An R number between 1.1 and 1.3 means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 13 other people.

01:20 PM

Deadline nears on Boris testing target

Boris Johnson made a promise in July to increase the UK's Covid-19 testing capacity to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October.

The latest data on the Government's coronavirus dashboard shows that there is currently a capacity for 467,512 tests with 308,763 tests actually being processed.

The Prime Minister may not be far off his target with just one day left to meet it - but will it be a huge success that will help make a real difference to the current escalating problem of rising infection numbers?

Dr Joshua Moon, research fellow in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex Business School, said the Government will "probably" reach the target.

"But what that tells us is limited," he said. "The gap between capacity and tests done is important here because the capacity figure generally refers to overall testing capacity, not the Pillar 1 & Pillar 2 testing capacity which are linked to Test and Trace."

01:09 PM

'Much remains to be done' on Brexit negotiations - Barnier

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said that "much remains to be done" to broker a post-Brexit trade deal as negotiations continued in Brussels.

He said on Friday they are working hard to get an agreement but that there were still significant gaps after seven days of "intensive negotiations" in London.

Talks with his Downing Street counterpart, Lord Frost, resumed in the Belgian capital on Thursday as they try to get a deal in place for the end of the transition period on December 31.

Currently the UK remains a member of the single market and continues to follow EU rules, but businesses will face high tariffs to trade if there is no deal at the end of the transition.

Mr Barnier tweeted:

12:51 PM

Mark Drakeford: No return to local restrictions

Here's more from Mark Drakeford, who says Wales will not return to a "network of local restrictions" when the country's firebreak lockdown ends on November 9.

"Instead, we will put in place a simple set of national rules that are easier for everyone to understand, to help keep us safe and keep the virus under control," Mr Drakeford said.

"We've been working hard to create this new set of measures that we can all live with this winter.

"If the new measures are to work, we all have to act in ways that live up to the public health emergency we are facing together. Please do not treat the new rules, as though they were a game in which the challenge is always to stretch them to the limit."

Mr Drakeford said ministers are finalising the national set of measures and he will provide the "full details" on Monday.

12:27 PM

Drakeford defends 'necessary' firebreak lockdown

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the country's latest figures for coronavirus show how "necessary" it was to introduce a two-week firebreak lockdown. Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff that the rate of Covid-19 in Wales had reached more than 220 cases per 100,000 people.

"In Merthyr Tydfil, the seven-day incidence rate has exceeded 600 cases per 100,000," Mr Drakeford said.

"Today, a further 1,700 cases of coronavirus will be confirmed but the actual number of infections will be much higher.

"The number of people with coronavirus in hospital is at its highest point since the end of April."

Mr Drakeford said 1,191 people were in hospital with coronavirus-related symptoms, which is up 20% from the same point last week.

12:19 PM

One per cent of population has Covid, latest ONS figures show

There were an average of 51,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 in private households in England between October 17 and 23, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is up from an estimated 35,200 new cases per day for the period from October 10 to 16.

The ONS said the rate of new infections has continued to increase in recent weeks.

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

An estimated 568,100 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between October 17 and 23, the ONS said. This is the equivalent of around 1.04 per cent of the population.

The figures represent a jump from 433,300 people, or 0.79 per cent of the population, who were estimated to have Covid-19 in the previous week of October 10 to 16.

12:07 PM

Len McCluskey tells union members: stay in the party

Unite boss Len McCluskey has called for calm and told his union members to stay in the Labour Party as they try to resolve Jeremy Corbyn's "unjust" suspension.

Outside the union's London headquarters, Mr McCluskey told Sky News: "It's a sensitive time, I thought it was wrong what's happened but now is the time for some calmness so we can see if we can resolve this.

"Unfortunately we've all been knocked off the rails a bit by Jeremey's suspension. I think it was unjust, and hopefully with discussions that can take place we can resolve it, we can all move on.

"My message, really, to literally hundreds of thousands of our members who are already expressing their anger is to stay in the party.

"We need the party to be united, working people out there need us, need a Labour government, so stay in the party and I'm hoping that we will be able to get through this fairly quickly to everybody's satisfaction."

12:01 PM

McDonnell: Labour is 'drifting towards a hell of a row'

 John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn's right-hand man as Labour leader, has called for "explanation over what was meant in various statements" to avoid "unnecessary grief" over his suspension.

11:55 AM

'Starmer has an unmissable opportunity to tackle the hard left'

Labour leaders’ High Noon moments are either contrived or unavoidable, writes Tom Harris. 

"Neil Kinnock’s showdown with the Trotskyite Militant faction at Labour conference in Bournemouth in 1985 was forced upon him by Liverpool City Council’s attempt to set an illegal budget, using mass redundancies as an eye-catching gimmick in its fight with the Thatcher government.

"Now Keir Starmer has been presented with his own opportunity, and it has happened, as with Kinnock, early in his tenure as leader. And the risks are far greater than those faced by Blair in 1995 because the Left is far stronger. 

"If he sees this short term storm through – and, crucially, if he maintains his determination to remove Corbyn permanently from the party – Starmer will surprise many and impress even more. This is his Bournemouth moment: he cannot afford to waste it.

Read Tom Harris' full column here.

11:22 AM

Left-wing unions head to crisis talks over Corbyn

My colleague Harry Yorke hears there is a meeting of TULO this morning - an organisation set up to facilitate discussion between the Labour Party and the trade unions.

We already know what Unite thinks of the suspension after critical comments from Len McCluskey last night, but the response from other organisations will be important in Sir Keir Starmer's attempt to ride this crisis out.

11:18 AM

Labour MP comes out against 'unjust' Corbyn suspension

Labour MP Nadia Whittome has said she has spoken to Jeremy Corbyn to offer her solidarity following his suspension from the party, which she said "appears unjust".

Ms Whittome said she hopes the situation is resolved positively, without losing focus on the "priority" of implementing the EHRC report's recommendations.

11:07 AM

Socialists call for members to defend Corbyn

Mr Starmer, leaving BBC studios in Millbank this morning -  FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Mr Starmer, leaving BBC studios in Millbank this morning - FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Socialist Party has urged left-wing activists to mobilise "inside and outside of the Labour Party" following the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn following his reaction to the equality watchdog's report into its handling of anti-Semitism.

A spokeswoman said Mr Corbyn had "broken no rule", had "always opposed anti-Semitism" and labelled the decision to remove the whip in Parliament as "virtually thought-control".

Hannah Sell, Socialist Party general secretary and a former member of Labour's ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), in the 1980s, said: "By suspending Corbyn, (Labour leader, Sir Keir) Starmer has laid down a clear challenge to the workers' movement.

"A month ago Unite, the biggest Labour-affiliated trade union, cut its funding of Labour by 10 per cent, as a warning to Starmer not to move Labour to the right.

"What clearer indication could there be that Starmer is doing just that, and has no intention of sticking by Corbyn's manifesto promises on nationalisation, free education, or repeal of the anti-trade union laws?

"The left trade union leaders should now institute an immediate conference, to be a council of war of the workers' movement - inside and outside of the Labour Party - to fight this attack and to discuss how to ensure workers have a vehicle that does fight for their interests."

10:57 AM

Labour five points ahead in the polls

 Labour is leading the Conservative Party by five points, the latest polling shows.

A poll by Ipsos Mori suggests 42 per cent of the public intend to vote for Labour, versus 37 per cent for Boris Johnson's Tories.

10:44 AM

Circuit breaker 'far worse' than local restrictions, says Raab

The debate this morning on the UK's lockdown policy is once again about whether the Government should move to a national 'circuit breaker' lockdown rather than a local lockdowns policy.

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the "arbitrariness of a blanket approach would be far worse than the effects of trying to be as targeted as possible" and stressed the need to "carry the public with us".

"They know we are targeting the virus where it is the greatest threat," he said.

Asked whether Jonathan Van Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, still agreed with that approach, Mr Raab replied: "The reality is that Jonathan Van Tam has stood up at press conferences and taken questions throughout this pandemic but ultimately the buck stops with politicians. The overwhelming scientific advice to us is that targeted measures are the right way to go."

Here's an explanation of what a circuit breaker is:

What is a 'circuit-breaker'?
What is a 'circuit-breaker'?

10:29 AM

Businessman sets up company so he can see his family as 'employees'

A financial adviser has paid £6 to register as a business, meaning he can employ his family to avoid the "rule of six" restriction.

Fenn Settle, 28, has registered a consultancy business under his name so he can exploit exemptions which mean that gatherings for work are permitted even in areas under the highest tier of Covid restrictions.

It is the latest loophole to emerge after business lunches were found to be exempt from the restrictions on meeting indoors in hospitality venues.

Read the full story here.

10:09 AM

Raab warns Iran: Do not re-jail Nazanin

The UK will cool its desire to improve relations with Iran if Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is returned to prison, the Foreign Secretary has said.

The British-Iran national, who is currently under house arrest in Iran, has been told she must attend court on Monday and prepare to return to prison following the hearing.

The 42-year-old has been held in the country since April 2016 when she was arrested at Tehran airport following a visit to her parents to introduce them to their granddaughter.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was convicted of spying and jailed for five years, although she was released under house arrest in March this year as coronavirus swept through Iran's prisons.

Dominic Raab said on Friday morning: "The truth is the detention of Nazanin and other dual nationals in Iran is totally unwarranted, we've made it very clear we want to put the relationship between the UK and Iran on a better footing.

"If Nazanin is returned to prison that will of course put our discussions and the basis of those discussions in a totally different place.

"It is entirely unacceptable, it is entirely unwarranted, it is totally unjustified."

09:50 AM

London cases spike as Tier 3 on its way 'within weeks'

The latest coronavirus data from London shows an additional 1,933 people have tested positive for the virus in the city.

The total number of Covid-19 cases reported up to 29 October 2020 in London is 93,431, with 13,909 new cases in the last week.

There are currently 832 Covid patients in London hospitals, compared with 544 patients on 22 October 2020.

Sources close to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London have said it is "highly likely" that the city will be moved to the third tier "in the coming weeks".

09:37 AM

Lockdown latest: Minister refuses to rule out Tier 4 restrictions

Tier 4 restrictions will not be ruled out, a minster has said, as he warned the second wave is "serious".

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the Government is "always ready" to impose stricter measures on the population if deemed necessary.

When asked if highest tier restrictions were being considered, Mr Raab said: "We do think the situation is serious.

"Having said that, we're confident we've got the right measures and framework in place -not to have a blanket approach but to target measures on the areas where the uptick is the highest."

He added: "We're always ready for further measures that we can take."

Mr Raab's comments come after former deputy chief medical officer, Reverend Professor Gina Radford, said it was "very, very likely" England would go into a full lockdown.

09:15 AM

How did it all go so wrong for Sir Keir Starmer?

Mr Corbyn arrived home last night after the day that saw his lifelong membership of the Labour Party suspended - Victoria Jones/PA
Mr Corbyn arrived home last night after the day that saw his lifelong membership of the Labour Party suspended - Victoria Jones/PA

Sir Keir Starmer has taken to the airwaves this morning to bemoan how his party's response to the EHRC report didn't "play out" how he hoped.

Key to all of this is the timeline. Who said what, and when?

Here is a rough sketch of how the party went from unity to the brink of factional warfare.

  • The night before - Sir Keir Starmer calls Jeremy Corbyn and warns him not to deny the scale of anti-Semitism when the report is published.

  • 10am - The EHRC report goes live, finding evidence that Labour broke equalities law under Mr Corbyn's leadership.

  • 10.36am - Jeremy Corbyn publishes a response, which argues the scale of the problem has been "dramatically overstated for political reasons".

  • 11am - Sir Keir Starmer gives a press conference in which he is asked about the comments. He says he will look at them in due course.

  • 12pm - Sir Keir Starmer asks Mr Corbyn to retract his comments about the scale of the problem. He refuses, and delivers another TV interview repeating the comments.

  • 1pm - David Evans, Labour's general secretary, decides to suspend Mr Corbyn. Corbyn says he was told about it by a photographer.

  • 1.45pm - Mr Corbyn says he will "strongly contest" his suspension and describes it as a "political intervention".

  • 3.17pm - The Socialist Campaign Group of Corbynite MPs says it will "work tirelessly for his reinstatement".

  • 3.30pm - Momentum, the campaign group that supports Mr Corbyn, says it is "not going anywhere", as the party is divided over the decision.

  • 5.30pm - Corbyn convenes a "council of war" with allies Karie Murphy, Seumas Milne and union representatives on their response.

  • 5.45pm - Len McCluskey, head of Unite, warns the decision will "create chaos" and a "split party will be doomed to defeat".

  • 6pm  - Labour's ruling National Executive Committee is convened and the party's leaders try to find a way out of the standoff.

08:49 AM

James Schneider: Suspension of Corbyn was 'foolish'

James Schneider, Jeremy Corbyn's media man - The Telegraph/Christopher Pledger
James Schneider, Jeremy Corbyn's media man - The Telegraph/Christopher Pledger

James Schneider, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, has said the decision to suspend him was "so foolish" and risked a civil war between rival Labour factions.

Mr Schneider was Jeremy Corbyn's head of strategic communications and was a key figure in the Momentum camapign group that supported him for leader.

He told the BBC's Today programme: "I sincerely hope there isn’t a civil war. I think it would be extremely damaging, which is why I think Keir’s decision yesterday was so foolish.

"I think now I would appeal for all the leaders of the Labour movement, the leaders of the party, the trade unions and the leaders of the left to come together and find some way through this, because it ends very badly for everybody involved."

Despite Mr Schneider's call for unity, reports yesterday suggested Corbyn allies had formed a "council of war" to co-ordinate their response. 

08:26 AM

Good morning

The Labour Party stands on the brink of civil war this morning following the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn over comments about anti-Semitism in the party during his time as leader.

Expect further interventions today and unions make their position on Mr Corbyn's suspension clear, and his allies double down on an attempt to keep him in the party.

The decision is high stakes for Sir Keir Starmer, because a significant chunk of the party's swelled membership joined to support Mr Corbyn - and he risks losing them.

We'll bring you all the latest on that story, which is also our main story in today's paper.

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