Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“Jeremy Corbyn expressed his views on disciplinary matters and it led to a very slippery slope. I’ve avoided that.”

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Leader, interview with BBC Today

Facts

Asked whether he wanted Diane Abbott’s disciplinary process to be resolved in time for the 2024 general election, Keir Starmer said: “It’s not a question of my want. The days when the Leader of the Labour Party rolls up his or her sleeves and gets involved in disciplinary cases are well and truly over. That’s what Jeremy Corbyn did and it ended very badly… Jeremy Corbyn expressed his views on disciplinary matters and it led to a very slippery slope. I’ve avoided that.”

But Starmer had already expressed his views on the very case he was talking about, telling reporters on the day after Abbott’s suspension: “In my view what she said was to be condemned, it was antisemitic, it’s absolutely right that we acted as swiftly as we did… What she wrote yesterday I utterly condemn and I said we would tear out antisemitism by its roots, I meant it and that’s why we acted so swiftly yesterday.” For the party leader to pronounce on the case of a named individual before any disciplinary process had taken place, declaring Abbott’s conduct antisemitic having previously promised “zero tolerance” of antisemitism, potentially prejudiced the subsequent investigation.

This was not the first time Starmer had expressed a view on a disciplinary case. When Labour suspended Corbyn in November 2020 over his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) ‘Investigation into Antisemtism in the Labour Party,’ Starmer took to the airwaves to accuse Corbyn of “denying there’s a problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party”—defining denial as “part of the problem” of antisemitism itself—despite Corbyn having said the previous day that “Anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party is wrong.”

According to a Labour briefing to the BBC, Starmer was “consulted” before Corbyn’s suspension. During the Corbyn era, consultation with the leader over the suspension of Ken Livingtone had been criticised by the EHRC as “political interference.” This is what Starmer claimed to have “avoided.” In fact, at the time of Corbyn’s suspension Starmer had given the impression of having been much more involved, boasting to the BBC: “I’m not going to shy away from difficult decisions. That’s what leadership is… We made a very difficult decision.” 

Starmer had previously been keen to show he was “rolling up his sleeves” and getting involved in disciplinary cases. In his first week as Labour leader in April 2020, he told a meeting of Jewish communal leaders he was “asking for a report on all outstanding cases to be on my desk at [the end of] the week.”

Verdict

Starmer’s claim to have avoided involvement in disciplinary cases is untrue.

We emailed Sir Keir Starmer’s office and Labour offering them the chance to respond. We received no response.

Published 28 Jun 2024
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