Rory Stewart defends claims that Keir Starmer was 'mad' to suspend Jeremy Corbyn

The former Conservative MP said all political parties with elected MPs must have 'broad coalitions'


LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04: Rory Stewart arrives at Millbank studios on October 4, 2019 in London, England. Rory Stewart has announced that he has resigned from the Conservative Party to run as an independent candidate in London's mayoral election, due to take place on May 7, 2020. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Rory Stewart has defended his suggestion Keir Starmer was wrong to suspend Jeremy Corbyn.

In an interview last week, the former Conservative MP who stepped down as an MP in 2019, said: “I think it’s disgusting he was thrown out of the Labour party. I mean, it’s mad."

“Jeremy Corbyn, whatever you think of him, is a major figure who represents a very significant part of Labour history and heritage. He was the leader of the party.”

Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said she was "disgusted" by the comments.

Asked about the comments by the JC, the former international development secretary made clear he wasn't defending the former Labour leader but instead suggested the party who has serving MPs must have "broad coalitions" with a range of people.

Stewart added: "I'm making a narrow point but I may have been over influenced by my own experience.

"There was horrifying antisemitism in Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party, I had friends who witnessed it directly and they expressed to me how disgusting it was.

"I absolutely believe it and it was a very good reason why people turned against Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party.

"However, I am concerned about the trend of MPs being expelled from political parties. Parties with serving MPs in Parliament should have broad coalitions."

Stewart, who has a Jewish wife, went on to say: "I feel very strongly about the issue of antisemitism." Stewart made clear that he wasn't "in any way defending" the former Labour leader and said he would aim to speak to Mendoza.

Asked why he thinks Starmer suspended Corbyn, Stewart told Novara Media journalist Ash Sarkar last week: "I think he is running a very controlling business with about three or four people trying to micromanage the Labour party. I think he lacks confidence.” 

Stewart also drew an analogy between how Starmer treated Corbyn by suspending him from the party and how he himself was thrown out of the Conservative party in 2019 by Boris Johnson after supporting a move to block a no-deal Brexit. 

He went on: “I believe in politics as being about embracing difference and compromise and persuasion and conversations amongst different people.”

Stewart, who previously stood as an independent candidate for Mayor of London and later withdrew, added that he “really liked” Corbyn and described him as “thoughtful” and “courteous”.

Mendoza added: “I find it particularly disappointing, having worked closely with Rory Stewart in his various roles and connecting him to the Jewish community, that he did not consider the impact of antisemitism. 

“It is surprising as during his campaign to be Mayor of London he heard first hand from so many of the pain caused and at the time showed empathy and support.

“Of course, it’s important for there to be a variety of views in parliament but surely we must draw the line at institutional discrimination against a protected minority.”

Corbyn, 74, was elected as leader of the Labour Party in 2015 and resigned following a resounding defeat at the 2019 general election.

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