Corbyn’s constituents air frustration and anger over suspension

Corbyn's constituents air frustration and anger over suspension thumbnail

Hussein Jabar still can’t believe Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from the Labour party.

The owner of Gadz Cafe in Finsbury Park, which is decorated with pictures of the former Labour leader, shook his head and simply said: “Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t deserve this.”

Labour was plunged into further turmoil on Thursday after it suspended Corbyn over his comments about a damning report into antisemitism within the party. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found the party responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.

Corbyn said of the report: “One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons.”

Labour announced his suspension at 1pm, with Corbyn finding out from a camera operator as he left a community centre in north London. In a later interview, the former Labour leader urged his followers to “stay in the party” to fight for leftwing principles.

In his constituency of Islington North, which Corbyn won with 64.3% of the vote in the 2019 election, there was anger on Friday over his suspension. While most people did not have pictures of him plastered across their walls, support for the former Labour leader ran deep.

“This man works very, very hard for anyone. He spends his whole life helping people,” said Jabar, who has known Corbyn for several years. “Everyone here knows Jeremy is a very good man. This is hard to see, especially with his age. They should be giving him something for his retirement, not this.”

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Corbyn is a very nice man and very popular here. I’ve known him for a long time and he is always helping poor people. He doesn’t have the arrogance of the other politicians.”

He added: “When I woke up this morning and I saw the news, I was so upset. I feel like he is family. He worries about our problems, he is always helping us.”

But there was also frustration at how Corbyn responded to the report’s findings. Sue Davies, who was helping her granddaughter move in with her partner, said: “Where he let himself down is that throughout the entire controversy of antisemitism he never stepped up … And when he did talk about antisemitism, he didn’t talk about antisemitism, he talked about racism. Jewish people wanted to hear him on antisemitism.”

Sue Davies: ‘Many Jewish people are pro-Palestinian, and that was never acknowledged.’ Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Her granddaughter’s partner, Gill, disagreed. “I think he has been misconstrued. I am Jewish myself and I know he isn’t antisemitic. Unfortunately, I do think he has a lot of people behind him who maybe pushed him to say what he said yesterday, but Keir Starmer is an idiot.”

She added: “He [Corbyn] was the person who wanted the report to come out. And the press is just twisting it as though he interfered and he didn’t interfere.”

Davies said she remembered the first rally she went to after Corbyn became leader and how excited she felt. “He was pro-Palestinian and I understand that, but many Jewish people are pro-Palestinian, and that was never acknowledged. He should have been upfront and had press conference after press conference, day after day.”

Ella, a recent university graduate, said she was desperate for Labour to be the strong oppositional party the country needed right now. “It’s disappointing to see such a fractured and divided party when we need a strong opposition.”

She said she and her mother had backed Corbyn and she was disappointed to hear he had been suspended, but felt in some way it was inevitable. “It felt like the entire way through his leadership of the party, there were always people rallying against him and trying to divide the party in two.”