Angela Eagle was subject to homophobic abuse during Labour leadership contest, report claims

‘I am grateful that Jeremy took the unusual step of both attending and speaking in the meeting and that he expressed sincere sympathy for both me and for my staff’

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Angela Eagle was subject to homophobic abuse, intimidation, and it was “very likely” a window of her local office was smashed in relation to her leadership challenge against Jeremy Corbyn, a probe by the Labour Party has confirmed.

The findings of the confidential inquiry, seen by The Independent, claim that Ms Eagle’s constituency office in the Liscard area of Wallasey, Merseyside, was vandalised and that the atmosphere of her constituency Labour party (CLP) became “toxic and divided in the extreme”.

At the time of the brick incident some supporters dismissed the suggestion that the former shadow Business Secretary was the target, while others claimed allegations of homophobia were “completely untrue”. One individual even went to the length of creating a “short investigation” into the “apparent” smashing and added Ms Eagle had attempted to “gain as much political advantage as possible” over the incident. 

The report, however, which draws on 100 anonymous witness statements, dismisses these suggestions and adds that allegations will now be passed on to the disputes panel regarding individual disciplinary action.

The report adds: “It is highly likely that the brick thrown through the window of Angela Eagle’s office was related to her leadership challenge. The position of the window made it very unlikely that this was a random passer-by. The window was directly between two Labour offices. Untrue rumours were subsequently spread that the building was occupied by many companies and the window was in an unrelated stairwell. 

“This was based on a Companies House search which found that the landlord had a number of companies registered there; in fact, the only other occupant is the landlord on the upper floor. Once this incorrect rumour was spread, members repeated it as clear evidence Angela Eagle was lying. This is categorically untrue. 

“The office of Angela Eagle has endured a significant amount of abuse, including abusive and intimidating phone calls. Staff members were eventually forced to unplug the phone. The investigation has received many hundreds of abusive, homophobic and frightening messages that have been sent by Labour members to Angel Eagle. Where appropriate, members have been administratively suspended pending investigation.” 

The investigation’s conclusions, endorsed by Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, add that Ms Eagle received a death threat, for which a man has been arrested. “Instead of condemning this and supporting the MP and the office staff receiving this, members have questioned whether this really occurred. The death threat has been seen by this investigation.

Before Ms Eagle gave up her position in the leadership contest for Owen Smith to become the “unity” candidate, Baroness Tessa Jowell claimed that Ms Eagle had suffered anti-gay abuse at a meeting in Wallasey. The report corroborates this, adding that some members “have truthfully claimed that homophobic instances occurred during the AGM”. 

It adds: “Others truthfully say they were not aware of those instances. It is possible for the events to have occurred without the knowledge of all members. The allegations are not that the Wallasey CLP is institutionally homophobic or that members were aware of homophobia but took no action, but are specific to individuals.”

The report also claims that following the national trend there has been a substantial increase in membership in Wallasey. But, it adds, a “small number” of these new members began attending the constituency meetings “and it quickly became clear that their approach was at odds with pre-existing members”. The investigation found that meetings became hostile and sometimes aggressive.

In the recommendations, it is stated that the report should not be used “to exacerbate problems” and that “claims and counter-claims will not improve the environment”. The authors say they will not act on unsubstantiated allegations. It is recommended that the CLP be suspended subject to a review in the spring and, once it reaches that point, the constituency party will be supported to start meeting again. Members who are role-holders at Wallasey will receive training on “organisational matters” before the end of the suspension. “Formal meetings will help manage the tensions in meetings,” it adds. 

In a statement, Ms Eagle said: “I am proud to have been the Member of Parliament for Wallasey for 24 years and to have had a good relationship with most local Labour activists for all of that time.

“I am grateful that Jeremy took the unusual step of both attending and speaking in the meeting and that he expressed sincere sympathy for both me and for my staff.

“It is now clear and accepted by the NEC that homophobic abuse was perpetrated by some members of the local party; I will simply not tolerate it, and I know I have the backing of both Jeremy and union leaders when I say that there is no place for it in the Labour movement either.

“As regards the vandalism of my office, I am grateful to both the internal investigators and the NEC for making clear both the facts of the matter and for the support of members up and down the country, including the leader of the Labour Party, that such abuse both happened and is intolerable.”

A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn added: “Jeremy wants the issues relating to Wallasey CLP to be resolved so campaigning can resume.”

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