LABOUR is on the brink of a new civil war after Keir Starmer suspended Jeremy Corbyn for claiming the party’s antisemitism problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

The former leader’s comments came after the publication of a damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which said the party was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination”.

The equalities watchdog identified what it called “serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints”.

The body found the party had breached the Equality Act 2010 by interfering in antisemitism complaints, including instances of inappropriate involvement by the leader of the opposition’s office.

Asked for his response, the former party boss said the “problem was dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.

He also said that he did not accept all the findings of the EHRC report.

Corbyn said: “One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.”

Starmer said his predecessor’s comments meant the party had little choice.

“I made it clear that we would not support antisemitism or the denial of antisemitism through the suggestion that it is exaggerated or factional and that is why I was disappointed by Jeremy Corbyn’s response and that is why appropriate action has been taken, which I fully support,” he said in a broadcast interview.

The veteran left-winger promised to fight the suspension, calling it political.

READ MORE: John McDonnell: Suspending Jeremy Corbyn from Labour 'profoundly wrong'

Meanwhile in Scotland, Richard Leonard, who last year urged Scots to help put Corbyn in Number 10, declined to speak out.

In a statement released before Corbyn was suspended, the Scottish party boss said: “This report will be a saddening and sobering read for everyone in the Labour party and everyone who is committed to eliminating antisemitism, racism and hatred from our society.

“It sets out a series of failures which are a matter of deep regret, for me and for everyone in our party. Keir Starmer has made crystal clear this morning that our party will accept the report’s findings and implement its recommendations in full, and that is the right thing to do.

“All of us have a duty to root out antisemitism wherever it exists, and that doesn’t stop at this report – we need to remain vigilant against the evil of antisemitism in our society.

“We must work tirelessly with the Jewish community to rebuild trust. We also have a responsibility to further educate our members and society at large on antisemitism and how to fight it.”

Asked if he agreed with the suspension of Corbyn, he said: “I have known Jeremy Corbyn for decades. He is a life-long anti-racist campaigner. But I am not commenting on internal disciplinary matters.”

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell criticised Leonard’s failure to condemn Corbyn.

He said: “Richard Leonard stood by as Jeremy Corbyn let down the Jewish community and allowed antisemitism to run rife in his party. He still won’t stand up and criticise the mistakes of his fallen idol.

“It shouldn’t be hard to send a clear message that overlooking antisemitism is wrong. If Keir Starmer can condemn Jeremy Corbyn’s flawed and deeply damaging leadership, why won’t Richard Leonard do the same?

“Defending Jeremy Corbyn shows just how out of touch Richard Leonard is with people across Scotland.”