Jeremy Corbyn said he has “no intention of stopping” fighting for his constituents after being blocked from running as a Labour candidate, adding: “I will not be intimidated into silence.”
Sir Keir Starmer got the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to vote not to endorse his predecessor in contesting Islington North for Labour at the next election.
Mr Corbyn stopped short of saying he will stand as an independent, as he criticised what he called a “shameful attack on party democracy, party members and natural justice” on Tuesday.
But the former Labour leader added: “I will not be intimidated into silence. I have spent my life fighting for a fairer society on behalf of the people of Islington North, and I have no intention of stopping now.”
Mr Corbyn accused his successor of launching “an assault on the rights of his own Labour members” and “breaking his pledge to build a united and democratic party that advances social, economic and climate justice”.
If Mr Corbyn did run as an independent in the seat he has represented since 1983, he could create a distracting challenge for Sir Keir at the next general election.
But such a move could also see him thrown out of the party he has held a membership of for nearly 60 years.
Sir Keir’s NEC motion saying Mr Corbyn “will not be endorsed by the NEC as a candidate on behalf of the Labour Party at the next general election” passed by 22 votes to 12.
It cited the dismal defeat for Labour under Mr Corbyn in the 2019 general election, in arguing his candidacy should be blocked.
Labour’s chances of winning the next election and securing a majority in the Commons would be “significantly diminished” if Mr Corbyn was endorsed, it argued.
The move will not be welcomed in all wings of the parliamentary Labour Party, where Mr Corbyn retains the support of those aligned with the Socialist Campaign Group.
John McDonnell, a friend and ally of Mr Corbyn who served as his shadow chancellor, said it was a “really bad mistake”.
He told Times Radio: “This is so divisive, and it’ll demoralise quite a few people. And actually, I think it might, in many ways, cost us votes in a number of constituencies.”
MP Nadia Whittome, who has served on Sir Keir’s frontbench, described the motion as “divisive, an attack on party democracy and a distraction”.
Jon Lansman, co-founder of the Corbyn-backing Momentum pressure group, suggested the Labour leader is acting like an “authoritarian”.
“Keir Starmer, unfortunately, is behaving as if he was some kind of Putin of the Labour Party. That is not the way we do politics,” he told Times Radio.
However, Mr Lansman said it would be a “big mistake” for Mr Corbyn to run as an independent, saying he wants to see Sir Keir form a Labour government.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that while he had not seen the evidence before the NEC, “I’m quite clear that what Keir Starmer is doing is changing our party for the better” and “making sure that the issue of antisemitism is dealt with”.
Mr Corbyn’s allies highlighted Sir Keir’s support for local memberships selecting their candidates “for every election” when he was running to become Labour leader.
“The selections for Labour candidates needs to be more democratic and we should end NEC impositions of candidates,” he said in 2020.
The Islington North Labour Party said on Tuesday they “strongly support” Sir Keir’s former position and rejected the NEC’s “undue interference” in the constituency.
They argued it “undermines our goal of defeating the Conservatives and working with our communities for social justice”.
NEC member Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, insisted constituency members “do get a chance to vote” but “it is always left to the NEC to endorse those candidates”.
“This is a clear demonstration of Keir making changes to our party to make sure that we can win the trust of the British people again,” she told reporters.
“We are in this position because Jeremy has failed to take the responsibility. I think it was incumbent of him to respond to the findings of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in a way that would acknowledge the seriousness of what they said had happened to our party under his leadership – he has failed to do that.”
Mr Corbyn remains a member of the Labour Party but has lost the whip, meaning he is sitting in the Commons as an independent.
Party rules mean he could lose his membership if he announces he will run against an official Labour candidate.
He was suspended over his response to the EHRC finding Labour under his leadership was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination as he struggled to tackle antisemitism.
The equalities watchdog lifted Labour out of two years of special measures last month, in what Sir Keir called an “important moment in the history of the Labour Party”.
The party leader then promptly announced he would bar his predecessor before bringing the formal motion sealing his fate on Tuesday.