UK Labour bars ex-leader Corbyn from standing as its candidate at next election

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister's Questions, in London
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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's main opposition Labour Party blocked its former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday from standing as one of its candidates at the next parliamentary election, as his successor Keir Starmer seeks a clear break with the party's leftist wing.

A Labour spokesperson said the party's governing body - the National Executive Committee - approved a motion proposed by Starmer not to endorse his predecessor as a candidate at the next election. The motion passed by 22 votes to 12.

Since becoming Labour leader in 2020, Starmer has sought to move the party towards the centre, telling Corbyn supporters last month that if they did not like the change he had overseen "nobody is forcing you to stay".

Corbyn, a veteran socialist, enjoyed some electoral success in 2017, but in 2019 led the party to its worst defeat since the 1930s. Britain's next election must be held by January 2025.

Corbyn, 73, was suspended from Labour in 2020 for suggesting complaints of antisemitism within the party during his leadership had been "dramatically overstated" for political reasons. His party membership was later reinstated but Starmer refused to allow him to join the parliamentary Labour Party and he currently sits as an independent lawmaker.

Momentum, a group set up to support Corbyn, described the decision to bar him as a candidate as "a dark day for democracy".

On Monday, Corbyn said Starmer had broken his commitment to respect the rights of Labour members and denigrated the party's democratic foundations.

Labour has enjoyed a double-digit lead in opinion polls over the governing Conservatives since last year when short-lived Prime Minister Liz Truss triggered market turmoil and sent mortgage rates soaring by announcing unfunded tax cuts.

The gap in the polls has persisted for months, but approval ratings for the Conservatives have started to recover since Truss was replaced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has scored some successes, such as renegotiating a post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Elizabeth Piper, Peter Graff)