Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of launching a purge of his Labour enemies after his campaign published a “hit list” of the 13 MPs most critical of his premiership.
It includes current deputy leader Tom Watson who described Momentum as a “rabble”, and also highlights Jess Phillips who is accused of swearing at Mr Corbyn’s ally Diane Abbott.
The list also contains Tristram Hunt, Stephen Kinnock, Ian Austin, Neil Coyle, Ben Bradshaw, Frank Field, Anna Turley, Karl Turner, Jamie Reed, and Tom Blenkinsop.
It was apparently issued by a junior member of the team and was not intended for official use.
Mr Smith seized on the news during Sky’s Labour leadership debate claiming Mr Corbyn is not serious about uniting the party.
He described the move to release the list and not being unifying and said it was “deeply divisive”.
“I agree we need to come back together but I find that hard to reconcile with something your campaign did just this evening,” Mr Smith said to Mr Corbyn.
Accusations were made that Mr Corbyn released the list as an attempt to ensure the deselection of MPs who oppose him – a claim that was denied.
The Labour leader stressed the need for the party to come together after the leadership election and said unity was of huge importance.
“Our party was created by brave people in order to bring about a fairer and a much more just society and we’ve made some great achievements,” he said during the debate, adding “I regret that some colleagues including Owen resigned from the shadow Cabinet... Once this leadership contest is over lets come together and campaign on all those issues.”
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “Owen Smith's campaign has become increasingly negative, focusing on attacking Jeremy Corbyn rather than presenting a positive vision for the party and country.
“For the sake of party unity, Owen must explicitly condemn those who have threatened to split the party and tear it apart, as well as condemn the abuse instigated by his high-profile supporters. He must also make concrete commitments to doing his bit to foster party unity.
“Jeremy Corbyn has consistently spoken about his desire to unite Labour in order to take on the Tories, and committed to continuing to appoint broad-based shadow cabinets should he be re-elected as leader.”
The results of the Labour leadership election will be announced on 24 September.
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