Labour MPs who backed Syria air strikes hit back after Jeremy Corbyn supporters threaten deselection and anti-war protesters brand them 'warmongers'

MPs condemn Jeremy Corbyn for facilitating the abuse

Matt Dathan
Online political reporter
Thursday 03 December 2015 11:51
Protesters gathered outside the home of Stella Creasy MP in east London
Protesters gathered outside the home of Stella Creasy MP in east London

Labour MPs who voted in favour of air strikes in Syria have been told they must be deselected and described as "warmongers" by a hard-left group that shares common ground with Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

But MPs hit back and condemned the Labour leader for facilitating the attacks after they were targeted by anti-war campaigners with a stream of abuse online, over the phone and outside their constituency offices.

The 66 Labour MPs were 'named and shamed' by Left Unity, a separate anti-austerity political party which has recently considered joining forces with Labour since Mr Corbyn was elected Labour leader.

Minutes after the vote was announced the group tweeted out the 66 "Labour warmongers" along with the banner: "Deselect them now". They repeated their message on Thursday morning:

Among those on the list was Wes Streeting, who suggested Mr Corbyn's comments saying there would be "no hiding place" for Labour MPs who backed military action was partly to blame for the torrent of abuse and political action.

“I don’t believe that Jeremy Corbyn as an individual somehow encourages the bullying of Labour MPs," he told the BBC. "But I think at the moment he’s in danger of permitting it by not showing strong enough leadership, by not clamping down on this.”

Ann Coffey, another Labour MP who backed the Government's motion to extend RAF air strikes into Syria, echoed his remarks, saying that "from the top of the party what you have is permission to target MPs".

Attempts to deselect MPs has already started, with Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy becoming the first to be targeted, the New Statesman has reported.

Corbyn-supporting grass-roots campaign group Momentum and Stop the War Coalition were planning to put a radical left candidate up against Ms Creasy in a deselection attempt, according to reports.

During the debate on Wednesday Ms Creasy said she had been forced to leave the House of Commons chamber to check on staff who were receiving abusive calls to her office, while protesters demonstrated outside her house on the eve of the Syria vote.

She is holding a public meeting on Sunday to explain to constituents why she voted in favour of air strikes in Syria and has invited members of the public to air their views too.

Other Labour MPs have also confronted the abuse head on, including Liz Kendall:

Another pro-bombing Labour MP, Peter Kyle, was sent a photo of a dead baby after he said he was voting in favour of air strikes and police were later called to his constituency office after protesters crowded outside.

However Mr Corbyn has repeatedly rejected reports that moderate Labour MPs would face deselection threats and speaking this morning, his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell insisted she had the leadership's support.

"There is no way she should be deselected. She is an excellent MP and she has my support," he told The Today programme.

He claimed the abuse had been directed to Labour MPs on both sides of the debate, revealing that he had received a death threat.

"This is not acceptable on either side," he said of the abuse. "I had a death threat the other day for not voting for war. All of that intimidation is not acceptable.

"It is not part of the Labour Party ... If you joined the Labour Party and use that sort of language on either side of the argument, you shouldn't be in the party. It is unacceptable. Jeremy Corbyn has made that position very, very clear. If they are Labour Party members, we have disciplinary processes and they will take place."

A source close to Mr Corbyn called for the Labour party to "draw a line under" the Syria vote and said it was time to "unite... both on Syria and on domestic issues."

In a statement published later on Thursday, Momentum distanced itself from allegations they were coordinating or encouraging the abuse of pro-bombing Labour MPs.

"Momentum strongly disapproves of anyone who engages in abusive behaviour towards MPs or anyone else, and threatening or bullying, whether they are outside the Labour Party (as most are) or inside it," the statement said.

"We specifically asked our supporters to emulate Jeremy Corbyn, and to keep their messages about the issues and to refrain from any personal attacks.

"Momentum is not a threat to MPs who voted for bombing. We have made clear that we will not campaign for the deselection of any MP and will not permit any local Momentum groups to do so. The selection of candidates is entirely a matter for local party members and rightly so."

Meanwhile the Socialist Party published the wording of a model resolution which they suggested Labour members could use to demand the removal of their constituency MP.

Socialist Party member Nancy Taaffe said: "It is absolutely crucial that Labour MPs or councillors who use their positions to vote for this war - not to mention the destruction of jobs and services through cuts - should be held democratically accountable via a reselection process.

"MPs who refuse to carry out the wishes of the people they claim to represent and instead pass on, vote on and support Tory austerity and war can expect anger from constituents. We are calling for votes of no-confidence to be taken as well as lobbies of MP surgeries and constituency offices."

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