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Labour MPs are split over how Keir Starmer should approach the latest Brexit clash, with some in leave seats willing him to “stay silent”, despite the remarkable scenes in parliament this week.

These backbenchers have told Politics Home they fear anything the Labour leader proposes risks damaging the party’s reputation as it attempts to rebuild after a crushing general election defeat. 

However, others think now is the time to be more combative after the government’s admission that it intends on breaching international law and may walk away from trade talks without a deal secured.

One member of the former Labour Leave group said: “A period of silence is welcome.”

In a day of high drama in Parliament, minister Brandon Lewis admitted the government intended to break international law by unilaterally changing aspects of the withdrawal agreement with the EU, drawing criticism from senior Tories including the former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Starmer has been criticised on social media for keeping quiet on Brexit after the government ratcheted up its threat to walk away without an agreement.

However he broke his silence today in an interview with Channel 5 News, saying that ministers should not reopen old wounds and persevere to try and strike a deal.

“What I would say to the government is don’t reopen old wounds, get a deal, move on and concentrate on defeating this virus,” he said.

Attempts to override elements of the withdrawal agreement is wrong, Starmer added, and it is “plain for everybody to see that.”

Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton who was part of the Labour Leave group in the 2016 referendum, said: “The Labour party made such a mess of the whole debate for three and a half years about the EU, I don’t think we can afford to be seen to be trying to sabotage the government’s negotiating tactics now. 

“Having made such a mess, a period of silence is welcome.”

Following the significant general election defeat for the party in 2019, Stringer said there are still die-hard remainers in the parliamentary party. 

He said anyone asking for a second referendum or for an extension to transition has been quieter but that “tendency is still here”.

A senior Labour MP said: “Starmer’s got to be cautious and cool over this because clearly it’s game playing within the Conservative party. He should not get involved until it’s clear what is actually going on.

“We need to be absolutely clear what the reality is before he intervenes.”

Another MP who supported remain said: “I don’t detect too much unrest from [the party] to Keir’s approach. The fact the prime minister is willing to force a no deal with the risks that brings seems mad. But the key point is, it may be a negotiating tactic, in which case it’s too early to be definitive. 

“The reality check [for us] must be how little power we have as opposition to change government policy.”

Labour’s Brexit policy, spearheaded by Starmer, was criticised as confusing during the general election and widely believed to be part of the reason the party lost so many seats, particularly in former “red-wall” areas. 

However, some Labour MPs think after a long period of not confronting Johnson over Brexit – in part due to the Covid crisis – Starmer now needs to “step up” and make sure people know where the party stands, even if it risks him being criticised for his past remain position.

One MP in a leave voting seat in the north of England said: “Boris Johnson I’m sure will just throw all the insults at Keir but I think he is on firmer ground when he has Conservatives like Bob Neill and Theresa May think the same.

“The Labour party will now really have to speak up on this possible breach of international law.”

The reluctance to battle the Tories on Brexit was justified post-election, they said, and any MPs who still speak of trying to extend transition are told firmly not to raise it by colleagues.

They said: “A lot of MPs in red wall seats are really conscious about the election result still and can understand why Keir has kept quiet, however I think the way things are going with the legislation now, blows a hole in it all.”

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Jeremy Corbyn Has Been Suspended By Labour In Wake Of An Anti-Semitism Investigation

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Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended by the Labour Party in the wake of the inquiry by EHRC into anti-Semitism (PA)


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Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended by Labour for his response to a bombshell report into anti-semitism within the party when he was leader.

The long-awaited inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded with Labour being served with an “unlawful act notice” after the party was found responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.

The equalities watchdog accused it of three breaches of the Equality Act 2010, relating to political interference in anti-semitism complaints, a failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-semitism complaints, and harassment.

But in response, Mr Corbyn said he did not accept all of the EHRC’s findings, and claimed the scale of the anti-semitism problem in Labour was “dramatically overstated” for political reasons.

That placed his position in the party under threat after his successor Sir Keir Starmer insisted he would adopt a “zero-tolerance” approach to anti-semitism, saying those who claimed the issue had been “exaggerated” or was a “factional attack” should be “nowhere near” the party.

Mr Starmer was repeatedly asked if that meant Mr Corbyn would now face action, but told a press conference he would “look closely” at his predecessor’s remarks and declined to make an immediate judgement.

However his hand appears to have been forced after Mr Corbyn then gave a broadcast interview less than an hour later, where he said: “The numbers of cases in the public perception had become overstated.

“The existence of the problem, I fully acknowledge, which is why I took action to end the problem in the party by introducing a process to get anti-semites out of the party.”

And in direct response to Sir Keir’s comments about those who deny the seriousness of anti-semitism being part of the problem, Mr Corbyn said: “No, I’m not part of the problem.”

Minutes later a Labour party spokesman said: “In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation.

“He has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”

Mr Corbyn said in response that he will “strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me”.

He said on Twitter: “I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an anti-semitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong. I will continue to support a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.”

The former party leader, who has represented Islington North in the House of Commons since 1983, will now sit as an independent MP while the internal inquiry takes place.

Under Labour Party rules, a suspended member cannot be put forward to represent the party in any position at any level, meaning in the event of an administrative suspension, the whip is suspended too.

Responding to the news of Mr Corbyn’s suspension, veteran Labour MP and former deputy leader Harriet Harman said: “This is the right thing to do.

“If you say that anti-semitism [is] exaggerated for factional reasons you minimise it and are, as Keir Starmer says, part of the problem.”

And Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said: “This is the right decision following Corbyn’s shameful reaction to the EHRC report.

“Labour is finally saying enough is enough, anti-semitism can never be tolerated in our party. Now we can finally move on.”

But John McDonnell, one of his closest political allies and who served as shadow Chancellor throughout his tenure as leader, said: “On the day we should all be moving forward and taking all steps to fight anti-semitism, the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is profoundly wrong.

“In interests of party unity let’s find a way of undoing and resolving this.

“I urge all party members to stay calm as that is the best way to support Jeremy and each other. Let’s all call upon the leadership to lift this suspension.”

The news was welcomed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie van der Zyl, who said: “Having presided over the descent of a proudly anti-racist party into a party that broke equalities law in its treatment of Jews, his shameless comments today showed that he remains part of the problem and is an obstruction to the resolution of the issue.”

The Conservative Party co-chairman Amanda Milling tweeted: “Many will be asking themselves why it took this long to act.

“This morning (Sir Keir Starmer) failed to say seven times that he would take action against Corbyn and now he has been pushed to do so. Hardly leadership.”



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‘We asked Trump to stop playing YMCA’ – Village People singer Victor Willis

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The Village People classic, YMCA, is regularly played at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies – with the US president often seen dancing to it.

But the disco group’s lead singer, Victor Willis, told BBC World News America that he does not endorse Mr Trump – and has even asked him to stop playing their music.

Read more:

How Trump and Biden’s playlists pump up the fans

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Operation Fox Hunt: China sent fugitive’s elderly father to America to coerce him into going home, US claims

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The case is believed to be part of the ruling Communist Party’s Operation Fox Hunt, an international anti-corruption campaign targeting Chinese fugitives — often former officials or rich individuals suspected of economic crimes.

The US Department of Justice said Wednesday the charges included “conspiring to act in the US as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China.” Five people have been arrested, while three are believed to be at large in China.

In 2016, the group — which includes an American-licensed private investigator — is alleged to have embarked on an illegal campaign targeting a former Chinese government official, who has lived in the US since 2010. They are accused of recording and harassing his daughter, taping a threatening note to his front door and flying his elderly father from China — allegedly against his will — in 2017 to pressure his son to return to China.

The note on the target’s New Jersey home said in Chinese: “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, US Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said the arrests sent a message that the US “will not tolerate this type of flagrant conduct on our shores.”

“Without coordination with our government, China’s repatriation squads enter the United States, surveil and locate the alleged fugitives, and deploy intimidation and other tactics to force them back into China where they would face certain imprisonment or worse following illegitimate trials,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that Chinese law enforcement agencies “conduct foreign cooperation in strict accordance with international law, fully respect foreign laws and judicial sovereignty.”

“The United States ignores the basic facts and uses ulterior motives to smear China’s work in pursuit of escaped and stolen goods. China firmly opposes this. We urge the US to immediately correct its mistakes,” he said.

Operation Fox Hunt

The Chinese government launched Operation Fox Hunt in 2014 to target wealthy citizens who were accused of corruption and had fled the country with large amounts of money.

Beijing authorities said at least 150 corrupt officials had fled to the US, and provided American counterparts with a list of “priority cases.”

Demers said such operations — regardless of whether the targets were guilty or not — were “a clear violation of the rule of law and international norms.”

“Rather than work with US authorities for assistance with recognized criminal cases as responsible nations do, China resorts to extralegal means and unauthorized, often covert, law enforcement activity,” he said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a news conference Wednesday that in a different Operation Fox Hunt case, the Chinese government had sent an “emissary” to the target’s US-based family warning that the person should “return to China promptly or commit suicide.”

Wray said that when Operation Fox Hunt targets refuse to return to China, family members in their home country “have even been arrested for leverage.”

“These are not the actions we would expect from a responsible nation state. Instead they’re more like something we would expect from an organized criminal syndicate,” Wray said.

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