Jeremy Corbyn must do more to curb his abusive supporters

Labour leader tried his own brand of 'soft' bullying and cannot be surprised that others pursue harsher forms of the same

Thursday 03 December 2015 22:51 GMT
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn (EPA)

The struggle between Labour’s MPs and its membership reached new peaks of spite in the run-up to and aftermath of the Syria debate om Wednesday.

Several MPs thought likely to vote with the Government were sent pictures of dead Syrian children, and a barrage of social media threats included the proposal of a “final solution” for rebels. Those who sided against Jeremy Corbyn – after he granted them a free vote – remain unconvinced by their leader’s comments that they will not face deselection (albeit in three years’ time).

There appears to be no available solution to Labour’s split. In a letter published in yesterday’s Independent, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field, suggested having two leaders – one for the MPs and one for the membership. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but this would serve only to formalise Labour’s split.

There can be no question that Mr Corbyn opposes the nastier forms of bullying to which his supporters have subjected Labour’s 66 rebels. He is making his disapproval clear in an email to members. But he also contributed to the vitriolic atmosphere in the first place, by stating that anyone who went against him would have “nowhere to hide”. The Labour leader, in short, tried his own brand of “soft” bullying, and cannot be too surprised that others have pursued harsher forms of the same.

The only thing that will convince the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) that Mr Corbyn is serious about tempering the abuse thrown at the likes of Stella Creasy – a wholly admirable MP – is if action is taken against the worst culprits, revoking their party membership, for example. The MPs Wes Streeting and John Mann have called for as much.

Mr Corbyn should indeed back sanctions against individual supporters who cross the line. In doing so, he would gain trust from the PLP and lose favour only among the most extreme of his supporters. That is a more than acceptable trade-off.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in