A woman bidding to stand for Labour in the Oldham by-election has vowed not to be deterred by left-wing trolls and claimed that the party’s hierarchy is hostile to working-class candidates like herself.
Kate Godfrey said she had had thousands of “people calling me all sorts of names” online since she criticised party leader Jeremy Corbyn over his appointment of a key aide.
She has applied for the Labour nomination to contest the Oldham West and Royton by-election triggered by the death last week of the veteran MP Michael Meacher.
30 October is the deadline for Labour activists to put their names forward, with the candidate due to be chosen next week for the by-election expected on 3 December.
Ms Godfrey said social media had been disfigured by abuse in recent months by trolls on the hard left.
“If someone tells me they can’t bear me online it doesn’t touch me,” she told The Independent. “But I have friends say they are withdrawing from social media, they are withdrawing from campaigning, which means it’s working.”
Ms Godfrey, a former aid worker in Syria, faced the online backlash after she criticised Mr Corbyn for appointing the “fascism apologist” Seumas Milne as Labour’s director of strategy and communications.
She stressed that she was not critical of Mr Corbyn in general, but was unrepentant about her comments, arguing that Mr Milne’s support for Vladimir Putin made it impossible for Labour to reach a coherent position on ending the war in Syria.
Ms Godfrey, who stood in Stafford at the general election, said the cost of becoming a Labour candidate meant it was difficult for people without independent means, a wealthy partner or union backing to throw their hat in the ring. She also claimed that party chiefs were anxious for candidates to play down their humble circumstances.
“The Labour Party weren’t generally very happy if I ever mentioned that I worked in a pub or that I have woken up in the morning really frightened about money,” she said. “They didn’t like [voters] to feel they hadn’t made a success of their lives.”
Mr Meacher had held Oldham West for Labour since 1970, but Ms Godfrey said the constituency was “absolutely within striking distance of Ukip”, which almost captured the neighbouring seat of Heywood and Middleton in a by-election last year.
“If we lose a key seat like Oldham West to Ukip, I think we will really struggle.”
The leader of Oldham Council, Jim McMahon, has confirmed that he is bidding to become the candidate. His move makes him the frontrunner for the nomination, but his centrist politics could provoke opposition from activists who want a Meacher-style left-winger to represent the seat.
Explaining his decision to stand, Mr McMahon said in an email to Labour councillors: “This is Oldham and it’s where my heart is. I feel if I didn’t apply I would look back and ask ‘what if?’”
Amina Lone, a Manchester councillor, is also understood to be a potential candidate.
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