Jeremy Corbyn tells Labour MPs and peers to stop 'sniping' and be more 'respectful'

Labour leader's spokesman says he 'faced down his critics' at a tense meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn has gone on the attack against critics who accuse him of being wrong on major policy issues and failing to win the kind of public support Labour needs to make a political recovery.

He told a tense meeting of MPs and peers who make up the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) that he wanted those who opposed him to stop “sniping” and be more “respectful” when voicing their opinions.

After the 75-minute meeting, his spokesman told journalists that the Labour leader had “faced down his critics” – a claim instantly contradicted by some of those same critics.

The spokesman added: “Jeremy made clear the sniping and name calling was counter-productive for the whole party and Labour’s position in the country. The mainstream of the PLP asserted itself – there was clear support for more unity and for Jeremy’s leadership. There was a clear sea change in the atmosphere within the PLP.”

He added: “He made clear that of course debate is essential, but it has to be conducted in a way that is respectful – there mustn’t be sniping and abuse. This kind of behaviour is damaging to the Labour Party and that clearly was understood by the majority of MPs.

“There is unhappiness among the membership about the way that a minority have behaved in recent months, in particular the public sniping and attacks. That clearly has to stop. It doesn’t reflect the mainstream.”

Mr Corbyn told MPs that during his long career as a backbench critic of previous Labour leaders, he always took care not to snipe at or abuse those with whom he disagreed. His spokesman acknowledged that there had been criticism of the leader voiced during the meeting but said that it had been done in “a much more measured way” than during previous confrontations.

The Labour leader has courted controversy in recent days by speaking at a CND rally in support of the abolition of Trident nuclear weapons, which is not currently the official policy of the Labour Party, and by calling at the weekend for the decriminalisation of prostitution. He is also accused of failing to show any enthusiasm for the cause of staying in the EU – a claim which his spokesman denied.

There had been fears that his appearance before the  PLP on Monday night could deteriorate into a shouting match, but his team was clearly relieved afterwards that though he had been criticised to his face, voices were not raised in anger.

But one Labour MP who has been persistently critical of Mr Corbyn said scathingly: “If that was a positive meeting, I’d hate to see a negative meeting. Most of the questions were critical of Jeremy.

“MPs were frustrated and disappointed about what he had said about sex workers. One MP read out Jeremy’s poll ratings, which were the worst poll ratings of any new leader since polling began, and asked him how long he was going to take to turn that around. Several MPs said he wasn’t doing anything to put a positive case for Europe together.

“His dwindling band of supporters said that we shouldn’t talk to the press, then his spokesman went out and told journalists that he had faced down his critics. The only thing you can say about that fantasy briefing is that it comes in the week after World Book Week that was celebrating fiction.”