Stella Creasy is not, on the face of it, the most obvious target for those who want to rid Labour of MPs who are insufficiently loyal to Jeremy Corbyn. Numerous MPs have said much worse things about the new leader; some were hard-line “bombers” from the moment the question of sending the RAF to Syria arose.
Ms Creasy made up her mind on the day of the vote – but now she appears to top the target list for those wanting to deselect anti-Corbyn MPs, so they can never stand as Labour candidates again.
Momentum, the pro-Corbyn pressure group, chose to hold a meeting in her Walthamstow constituency on the night of the Autumn Statement, without inviting her – and membership of the local party has surged since the general election.
One local Labour councillor, Asim Mahmood, has said that any MP who voted for bombing should have to face a reselection contest. She retorted: “The one thing I will not do is be bullied by a sitting Walthamstow Labour councillor with the threat of deselection.” On Wednesday night, protesters marched from a local mosque and gathered outside her constituency office, leaving its windows and door covered in Post-it notes containing anti-war slogans.
That she is such a prime target says more about the constituency she represents than about her. Walthamstow is a socially mixed area of north London; some of its neighbourhoods are among the 5 per cent most deprived in the capital. The population of Waltham Forest, of which Walthamstow is part, is unusually young – the average age is below 35 – and ethnic minorities make up 62 per cent of the population. It is from the young, and from Muslims, that the anti-war protesters draw most of their support.
Not all the people attacking Ms Creasy are party members. On Sunday she will hold a public meeting to defend her decision. Nancy Taaffe, a constituent, has promised to be there to demand that she resign or be deselected.
Ms Taaffe told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme: “Within the community of Walthamstow, among activists inside and outside the Labour Party, there has been a huge swell of sentiment against this war.”
The name “Taaffe” has resonance for party members with long memories. Nancy’s father, Peter Taaffe, is leader of the tiny Socialist Party, of which his daughter is a prominent member. More than 30 years ago, when Michael Foot led Labour, he was one of five leaders of what used to be called the Militant Tendency to be expelled from the party. She thinks Mr Corbyn should let them rejoin.
This morning, the Post-it notes had disappeared from the windows of Stella Creasy’s constituency office, and there was no one outside except camera crews and men doing road works.
Daniel Connolly, a 25-year-old musician passing by, said he felt “let down” by Ms Creasy’s stance on bombing. “It doesn’t represent the views of the public. The consensus is that the public don’t want war,” he said. But he did not think she should be deselected, because “she has done her job”, and he described some of the Twitter abuse she has received as “disgusting”.
One message implied that she deserved to be “bottled”. Another suggested she did not understand what bombs do to people, because she has no children. She replied: “Am not sure what my fertility has to do with this debate.”
Her staff said she spent today shut away answering some of the vast quantity of messages she received. The protesters who gathered outside her office on Wednesday have been described as a “mob”, but on Facebook she defended their right of peaceful protest. She added that she did not believe the marchers were the same people who have been sending her abusive messages. “Given I also know many of them personally I would be extremely surprised if so!” she added.
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