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Keir Starmer could be forced to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn as a Labor MP on radical proposals to give control of parliamentary discipline to the party’s annual conference.
Former Shadow Cabinet Secretary Richard Burgon has backed calls for a rule change that would give activists the final say on controversial whip decisions.
Starmer sparked a backlash from the year of the Left when he refused to reinstate Corbyn in the parliamentary whip after arguing over the former leader’s stance on anti-Semitism in the party.
Starmer and Chief Whip Nick Brown banned him from being a Labor MP until he apologized more fully to the Jewish community for comments made after the EHRC’s report on racism within the party was published.
Corbyn supporters say Starmer’s refusal to restore the whip is a “factional” decision.
They point out that a panel of the National Executive Committee (NEC) restored party membership after “clarifying” that anti-Semitism allegations were not exaggerated to attack its leadership.
With only a few days to go before proposals for changes to party rules had to be tabled for the September conference, Burgon supported efforts by the left-wing Campaign for Democracy of the Labor Party (CLPD) to put activists in control of controversial whip decisions.
Currently, disciplinary cases involving MPs are governed by the rules of the Parliamentary Labor Party (PLP), with the final say on whipping the Fuehrer’s gift and the chief whip.
However, if the proposal were put to vote and approved, it would mean that a vote by the hundreds of Congress delegates could overturn Corbyn’s decision.
Burgon said: “I support this rule change for this year’s Labor Party Conference, which if passed, the whip could be returned to Jeremy Corbyn. The change would hold the parliamentary Labor Party accountable to the conference for decisions to withdraw the whip. “
I support this rule change for this year’s Labor Party Conference, which, if passed, could return the whip to Jeremy Corbyn
The change would make the parliamentary Labor Party accountable to the conference for decisions to withdraw the whip.
– Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) May 24, 2021
The CLPD said: “If this rule change were adopted, the PLP would have to report directly to the conference, including on MPs’ discipline, with the conference being able to approve or reject disciplinary decisions that are relevant to the delegates.
“There is currently a loophole in the Labor Party’s rulebook as the Labor Party (PLP) is not accountable to the annual conference. Work done by the PLP to promote or implement Labor Party’s policies and discipline within the PLP will not be reported to the conference, nor will delegates have a say in any disciplinary decision that they consider to be relevant.
“The NEC and the NPF [National Policy Forum] must be accountable to the party’s sovereign organ, but not to the PLP. This has to be corrected at this year’s conference. “
However, other party figures warned that it would be a bad idea to subject flogging or similar disciplinary decisions to the party congress.
NEC member Luke Akehurst suggested the move might not be legal, while others said cases of sexual harassment like that of former Hartlepool MP Mike Hill could be challenged.
I am not convinced that the details of highly sensitive disciplinary cases can best be dealt with in a debate between hundreds of delegates with television cameras running, or that it is even legal. https://t.co/IZI8c1wIeU
– Luke Akehurst (@lukeakehurst) May 24, 2021
This would undermine any hope of eliminating political interference from complaints of sexual harassment in the Labor Party and would actually endanger the safety of MP staff
How anyone could suggest this when ex-MP Mike Hill is on trial for sexual assault … https://t.co/QzUBwanl05
– Deeba Syed (@deebasyed) May 24, 2021
The Brighton convention will be the first since 2019, and activists on both the left and centrist sides of the party are preparing to get as many delegates as possible to represent local constituency parties.