Keir Starmer has suspended Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour party after he refused to withdraw a statement that said the scale of Labour’s antisemitism problem had been exaggerated.
The move is a sign of Keir Starmer’s commitment to matching his actions to his words, but will also reignite Labour’s civil war: and the Labour leader can have no guarantee that he will emerge on the winning side. That the suspension occurs while voting is still underway for Labour’s national executive committee and for the vacant leadership of Unison means that it may well act as a spur for higher levels of engagement in those contest, which, if they come from the Corbynite left, could imperil Starmer’s majority on the ruling national executive committee.
In addition, even if they do not, they reduce Starmer’s freedom for manoeuvre as far as the party’s policymaking processes are concerned: he will be more dependent on trades unions from the right and centre, more dependent on local government leaders, and more dependent on the parliamentary Labour party’s right and centre.
Suspending Corbyn sends a very loud and clear signal about how real the change of approach under Keir Starmer is. But if he can’t win the conflict that will follow, it will also send another signal: that Labour is divided and that Starmer is incapable of ending that division.