Wales politics

Labour Party members clash over dealing with 'vile abuse'

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Wales News Service

"Nobody does vile abuse in my name with my approval. I totally condemn it."

They were the words of Jeremy Corbyn to Andrew Marr last week.

But ten days on, his leadership challenger Owen Smith has accused him of not doing enough to tackle personal abuse of MPs.

Mr Smith said he has had death threats and female Labour MPs have suffered "appalling abuse".

And he said Jeremy Corbyn has "let it run".

That is a charge categorically denied by the Corbyn camp.

But on the day nominations closed for the leadership contest, it is perhaps a sign of just how fierce this contest is going to get.

MPs have recently been reporting a range of abuse from racism, misogyny and death threats, to accusations of treachery and lying.

Welsh Labour MPs I have spoken to said the very serious threats of violence can come from anywhere.

But there has been a general consensus that "lower level" abuse is coming from the left of the party, from supporters of Mr Corbyn.

"Liar", "traitor" and "vermin" have become familiar terms for Labour MPs since the majority of them made clear they were unhappy with Mr Corbyn's leadership.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

But Labour NEC member, Cardiff councillor Darren Williams, thinks the conclusion the abuse is mainly coming from the left is wrong.

He said there has been a "concerted tactic" by opponents of Mr Corbyn to link him with the attacks.

It also throws up the question of what MPs should be prepared to accept from voters.

Becky Harford, from Cardiff, joined the Labour party last month to support Jeremy Corbyn.

Image copyright Twitter

She has condemned racism, misogyny and personal abuse but said there has to be frank criticism: "The problem with trolling is not unique to the left.

"It's an internet-wide problem, it's a problem in life in general.

"I was a waitress for 15 years, I put up with abuse day in, day out from people. But you almost have to get a bit of a thick skin.

"I did that on minimum wage, I'm sure they [MPs] can do it on the £80,000 they're receiving."

But Stephen Doughty, Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said there has been a link between what may be seen as casual criticism and more serious abuse.

"Use of inflammatory language like 'traitor' and 'vermin', online trolling, use of anti-Semitic tropes and the language of betrayal and grievance are the sewer in which more extreme behaviour and threats grow," he said.

Both sides want a clean campaign, but some fear the battle this summer could be a catalyst for personal attacks to increase and intensify.

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