Former UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn Reportedly Considering Launch of New Left-Wing Party
Jeremy Corbyn — the former leader of the British Labour Party whose four-year stint at the helm resulted in a disastrous general election defeat amid a constant stream of scandals around antisemitism — is reportedly examining the creation of a new political party.
Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party in Oct. 2020 by his successor, Sir Keir Starmer, after he dismissed the copiously-documented claims of antisemitism in its ranks as having been “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”
While Corbyn’s suspension from membership of the party has since been lifted, Starmer is adamant that his predecessor, who remains a member of the UK parliament, will not be readmitted to the parliamentary party unless he apologizes for his comments about antisemitism.
According to the UK newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, Corbyn — who still refuses to offer an apology — now believes that his time in the party that he has served as an MP since 1983 has come to an end.
Last month, Corbyn launched the Peace and Justice Project, a charity that focuses on “economic security, global justice, a democratic society, and climate justice.” According to the Telegraph, members of Corbyn’s inner circle, including his wife Laura Alvarez, have been urging the former Labour leader to use the organization as the vehicle for a new party that will stand to the left of Labour.
Such a party might attract left-wing MPs disillusioned with the direction that Labour has taken under Starmer’s leadership. However, two of Corbyn’s key lieutenants during his time as Labour leader, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, are said to be uninterested in defecting to a Corbyn-led party.
News of the discussions in the Corbyn camp emerged as Anas Sarwar, the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, demanded that Corbyn apologize to British Jews for the “pain and anguish” caused by a succession of scandals over antisemitism. A report by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission in Oct. 2020 found serious failings in the party’s leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling complaints, concluding that Labour under Corbyn’s leadership was responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.”
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Sarwar said he had “been spending a lot of time speaking to the Jewish community here in Scotland and I have heard directly about the pain and the anguish that that whole episode caused.”
Asked if Corbyn should apologize, Sarwar replied in the affirmative.
“I think that is the least anyone who has caused pain or hurt should do in that situation,” Sarwar said. “I would love to pretend there wasn’t pain or anguish or hurt, I have spoken to communities, I have spoken to people who have traditionally been Labour Party supporters who have felt the pain and anguish of that entire episode, and we have got to do the work necessary to rebuild our trust and our relationship with every community across the country.”
Should Corbyn launch a new party, he faces a formidable challenge in winning over British voters. As Corbyn headed into the last general election in Dec. 2019, a YouGov poll showed that 64 percent of voters believed that he was performing “very badly” as Labour leader. The party was duly trounced by the ruling Conservatives on election day, losing 59 seats in the House of Commons as its vote collapsed by nearly eight points, to 32.2 percent, compared with the 2017 election, when Corbyn was also leader.
Neither has British politics been particularly kind to breakaway parties from Labour. Respect — a far-left party founded by the pro-Palestinian former MP George Galloway — enjoyed some initial success when it was launched in 2004, but was eventually deregistered as a political party in 2016 following a string of failures.
Further back in time, a group of four prominent Labour politicians who were fearful of the party’s swing to the left formed the Social Democratic Party in 1981. After a failed merger with the Liberal Party and a series of electoral defeats, the SDP dissolved in 1990.