Labour’s General Secretary has threatened to identify and punish those involved in the alleged personal abuse and intimidation that has rocked the already destabilised party
The unprecedented move follows yet more allegations of harassment by “Corbynistas” against the leader’s critics within the party and Westminster, reports Alison Little of Express. Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Angela Smith, distanced herself from Corbyn by backing his leadership challenger Owen Smith. Some of Corbyn’s opponents accuse the hard left leader of failing to act to protect them from vile verbal abuse and intimidation by alleged backers, although he has urged people to show “respect”.
Labour general secretary Iain McNicol acknowledged that words alone were “meaningless” in a strongly worded statement. The summer’s election was a “big debate” to choose Labour’s candidate to be the next Prime Minister, he said. He said: “However, for a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. “They shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.
“Put plainly, there is simply too much of it taking place and it needs to stop.” Corbyn, his deputy Tom Watson, Owen Smith and the party’s ruling National Executive Committee had all make clear there was “no place for abuse of any kind in the party”, Mr McNicol continued. “However, words of condemnation are meaningless unless they are backed up by action. “The NEC has already taken the difficult decision to suspend most party meetings while the leadership election is ongoing.
“And over the coming days and weeks the party will be taking further action to protect our members and to identify those responsible for this appalling behaviour. I want to be clear: if you are a member and you engage in abusive behaviour towards other members it will be investigated and you could be suspended while that investigation is carried out. “If you are a registered supporter or affiliated supporter and you engage in abusive behaviour you will not get a vote in this leadership election.” Giving details of an email address to report abusive behaviour, he said Labour owed it to millions of people who needed its help to conduct the election “in a way that gives them confidence in our ability to build a better Britain”.
Local Labour party meetings have largely been cancelled following claims of bullying. Former leadership challenger Angela Eagle has cancelled open door constituency surgeries after consulting police about vandalism at her Merseyside office and abusive messages. Last weekend, Labour MP Seema Malhotra – one of many frontbenchers to quit in protest at Corbyn’s leadership – lodged a formal complaint after aides to Corbyn and the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell allegedly entering her House of Commons office without permission.
The former Shadow Treasury minister has asked Commons Speaker John Bercow to investigate and she claims her staff felt intimidated by the incursion. Ms Malhotra told the BBC on Sunday night: “There is a culture of bullying that has entered the Labour Party which isn’t what we’re about, it isn’t what we stand for and it’s something we have to stamp out and absolutely that has to start with the leader.” Mr McDonnell insisted his office manager had just been checking whether Ms Malhotra had moved out of her Shadow Treasury team office a month after resigning.