UK Politics

Corbyn urged to 'step back' from Stop the War coalition

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Media captionAnti-war group 'disreputable' says Labour MP

A former shadow minister has called on Jeremy Corbyn to "step back" from the Stop the War Coalition, calling the group a "disreputable organisation".

Tristram Hunt said the anti-war group had been "irresponsible" before and after the vote on Syria air strikes.

Mr Hunt said the Labour leader should not attend a fundraiser this week.

Stop the War rejected what it called an "unfounded attack", while Mr Corbyn's spokesman said the anti-war movement was a "vital democratic campaign".

His spokesman also insisted he would not be put off attending the group's event, saying he "would not accept attempts to portray campaigning, lobbying and protest as somehow beyond the pale".

Some of the 66 Labour MPs who backed bombing in Syria have complained of being subjected to online abuse since the vote.

Labour MPs Simon Danczuk and Neil Coyle have told police that they received apparent death threats online.

The Metropolitan Police said on Sunday evening one man had been charged with malicious communications.

'Ugly comments'

Separately, MP Stella Creasy had said her staff had been scared to leave her constituency office in Walthamstow the day before the Syria vote because of a demonstration against her support for military action.

She met residents on Sunday to explain her stance, and later tweeted: "Thank you Walthamstow for making time for today's discussion on Syria - really appreciate you all taking time to meet in person!"

Labour members in the MP's east London constituency have defended the march, saying it was attended by people from all sections of the local community, was "dignified and respectful" and did not pass by the MP's home.

"We refute the claims that we are in anyway linked to the allegation of unacceptable treatment of our MP's staff the day after our event," they said in a statement.

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Image caption Stop The War has condemned abusive messages sent to some MPs after the Syria vote

Mr Hunt, the former shadow education secretary who voted for air strikes, said the vitriol unleashed within the party over the Syria vote had "crossed a line".

And he called on Mr Corbyn to distance himself from the Stop the War Coalition - which Mr Corbyn once chaired -one of the leading opponents of military action in Syria, accusing them of making a series of "ugly comments" since Wednesday's vote.

"I think they've been very irresponsible with their language and activities, picketing Labour Party headquarters when we're trying to fight for the Oldham by-election," he said.

"I think they're a really disreputable organisation and I would hope Jeremy would step back and not go to their fundraiser."

Mr Corbyn stepped down as chairman of the organisation, which was formed in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks in the US to oppose military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, after he became Labour leader.

However, he retains strong links with the group and is due to attend a Christmas fundraising event next week.

Stop The War has staged a number of protests in the constituencies of Labour MPs who backed action in Syria, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn - whose pro-bombing speech in the Commons is said to have swayed up to 20 Labour MPs to vote with the government.

'Do not picket'

Stop the War's convenor Lindsey German defended its actions, saying it was entitled to engage in peaceful protests and would continue to do so.

"Tristram Hunt's attack on Stop the War Coalition is unfounded and unjustified," she said.

"We did not picket Labour Party offices, we have unequivocally condemned the terrible massacre in Paris, and we do not take a view on who should hold which office in the Labour Party.

"We do note, however, that unlike Mr Hunt we take the same view of the Syrian war as the leader of the Labour Party and the great majority of Labour MPs and members. We look forward to celebrating that fact with Jeremy (Corbyn) this week."

And Mr Corbyn's office defended the organisation's aims and activities. "The anti-war movement has been a vital democratic campaign, which organised the biggest demonstrations in British history and has repeatedly called it right over 14 years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East."

Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said people who bully, intimidate or harass MPs should be removed from the party and she welcomed the strong message from Mr Corbyn that this would not be tolerated.

"Most of the people sending threats aren't even on the electoral roll," she told Radio 5 live's Pienaar's Politics, "Trying to influence MPs when they can't even sign up to vote for an MP is pretty poor."

'Bench strength'

Meanwhile, Labour has said it will not comment on newspaper reports that Mr Corbyn could seek to stamp his authority on the party after weeks of infighting by changing the make-up of his top team.

Nearly a dozen members of the shadow cabinet were among 66 Labour MPs to support the government over military action, defying Mr Corbyn who had urged them to oppose intervention.

Mr Hunt, who decided not to serve under Mr Corbyn, said talk of a "purge" of opponents seemed a bit of a "Sunday story" but he urged Mr Corbyn to keep those who disagreed with him over Syria, such as Hilary Benn, in their current positions.

"You want the team of rivals. You want actually lots of people from different parts of the party," he told Andrew Marr.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said talk of a reshuffle was "Westminster tittle-tattle".

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