Labour outcast Jeremy Corbyn has been told his suspension could last up to three months, according to reports.
The party’s chief whip, Nick Brown, is said to have written to the former leader saying he will lose the Labour whip for at least three months.
According to the Guardian, Mr Brown said the suspension of the whip – which means Mr Corbyn will not be able to sit as a Labour MP – will continue while an investigation takes place into whether he broke parliamentary party rules.
Meanwhile a key ally of Mr Corbyn has today warned Sir Keir Starmer that he could face a leadership challenge amid the uproar over the decision.
In a sign of ever-growing discontent among Labour MPs, Ian Lavery today warned that ‘there’s always the opportunity of a leadership challenge’.
The Wansbeck MP, an ally of Mr Corbyn, also hit out at the treatment of the former Labour leader – accusing Sir Keir of pursuing a ‘political and personal vendetta’.
It comes after 32 Labour MPs and peers from the Socialist Campaign Group described the decision to deny Mr Corbyn the whip as ‘wrong and damaging’ and called for it to be reversed.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Mr Lavery, an ally of Mr Corbyn who served as party chairman during his leadership, said: ‘It looks very much that this is a vengeful, divisive, provocative sort of move from Keir Starmer.
In a sign of ever-growing discontent among Labour MPs, Ian Lavery (pictured left) today warned that ‘there’s always the opportunity of a leadership challenge’. The Wansbeck MP, an ally of Mr Corbyn, also hit out at the treatment of the former Labour leader – accusing Sir Keir (pictured right) of pursuing a ‘political and personal vendetta’
It comes after 32 Labour MPs and peers from the Socialist Campaign Group described the decision to deny Mr Corbyn (pictured) the whip as ‘wrong and damaging’ and called for it to be reversed
The 32 Labour MPs and peers who have signed a letter demanding Jeremy Corbyn have the whip reinstated
Diane Abbott MP
Tahir Ali MP
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP
Zarah Sultana MP
Jon Trickett MP
Claudia Webbe MP
Mick Whitley MP
Nadia Whittome MP
Beth Winter MP
Paula Barker MP
Apsana Begum MP
Olivia Blake MP
Richard Burgon MP
Ian Byrne MP
Ian Lavery MP
Clive Lewis MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
John McDonnell MP
Ian Mearns MP
Navendu Mishra MP
Grahame Morris MP
Kate Osamor MP
Kate Osborne MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Dan Carden MP
Mary Foy MP
Rachel Hopkins MP
Kim Johnson MP
‘Keir is the leader. Obviously he should be in pole position to be leader of the party at the next election.
‘But there’s a lot hinging on how Keir reacts not just to this but how Keir performs on behalf of the party.’
Mr Lavery, who said Sir Keir had caused ‘mayhem’ among Labour members since becoming leader, also called on him to deliver on his pledge to unify the party and push on with his 10-point plan – which includes backing public ownership.
Asked would should happen if the Labour leader could not deliver, he said: ‘There’s always the opportunity of a leadership challenge and the rules allow that to happen.’
However he added that he wished to see the party united and hoped to win the 2024 election.
Mr Lavery was one of the 32 Labour MPs and peers to sign a letter calling for Mr Corbyn to have the whip reinstated.
Mr Corbyn was suspended as a Labour member last month after saying anti-Semitism in the party was overstated.
Sir Keir said his predecessor had ‘undermined’ work to restore trust in Labour’s ability to tackle anti-Semitism.
Mr Corbyn was reinstated on Tuesday following a disciplinary hearing.
But earlier this week Sir Keir announced he would not restore the Labour whip, meaning Mr Corbyn will continue to sit as an independent MP.
His decision provoked a furious response from Mr Corbyn’s supporters, including the MPs and peers who signed the letter.
They included former shadow cabinet ministers John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – and Sir Keir’s former leadership rival Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, who is one of Mr Corbyn’s closest political allies, branded the decision ‘vengeful’.
He accused Sir Keir of ‘despoiling party democracy’, adding: ‘The continued persecution of Jeremy Corbyn – a politician who inspired millions –by a leadership capitulating to external pressure on party procedures risks destroying the unity and integrity of the party. I urge Keir Starmer in the strongest terms to pull back from the brink.’
There were reports on Tuesday night that Mr Corbyn was considering legal action.
His allies suggested he could allege ‘political interference’ in disciplinary rules, according to The Times. However, MPs said there were no grounds for a legal challenge.
Figures from the moderate wing of Labour – including veteran Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge – welcomed withholding the whip.
On Wednesday, following pressure from Jewish groups and threats to resign from moderate MPs, Sir Keir issued a statement saying: ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle anti-Semitism.
The head of the Unite union, Len McCluskey (pictured left), who is one of Mr Corbyn’s closest political allies, called the decision ‘vengeful’
Sir Keir’s decision means the former Labour leader will continue to sit as an independent MP
‘In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I will keep this situation under review.’
Ex-shadow chancellor Mr McDonnell said the action was ‘just plain wrong’ and would cause ‘more division and disunity in the party’ while Miss Abbott said removing the whip ‘raises serious questions of due process’.
Former shadow cabinet minister Richard Burgon added: ‘Jeremy should immediately have the whip restored.
At a time of national crisis, division in the Labour Party serves nobody but the Tory Government.’
Meanwhile, Momentum, Mr Corbyn’s hard-Left grassroots support group, began a petition calling for his reinstatement. By yesterday afternoon it had 1,000 signatures.
A union source also said Sir Keir’s decision was ‘panicky’ and prompted questions about his leadership ability. The source also claimed the Labour leader had shown ‘bad faith’ following behind-the-scenes discussions about trying to unify the party.
But Dame Margaret, who was said to have been on the brink of resigning after the NEC ruling, said: ‘As Corbyn has refused to accept the findings of the EHRC report, refused to apologise for his actions and refused to take any responsibility, withholding the whip is the right decision.’
Sir Keir’s move also won the support of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour last month after claiming the scale of anti-Semitism had been ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’ by opponents inside and outside Labour, along with the media.
He has not apologised, but issued a statement ahead of the NEC meeting saying concerns about anti-Semitism were ‘neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’. The decision to readmit him was made by an NEC panel of five members who are independent of the Labour leadership – but they had no power to restore the whip.
That decision rested with Sir Keir and party chief whip Nick Brown.
Last night a YouGov poll showed 50 per cent of the public backed the Labour leader’s decision while just 21 per cent said he was wrong.
However, only 38 per cent of Labour voters supported Sir Keir compared to 32 per cent who did not, indicating serious divisions in the party.