Opponents accuse Jeremy Corbyn of failing to protect them from intimidation

Owen Smith joins Angela Eagle in Labour Party leadership contest

Jeremy Corbyn:  accused of failing to protect opponents from threats and online abuse. Photograph:  Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn: accused of failing to protect opponents from threats and online abuse. Photograph: Rob Stothard/Getty Images

 

Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn have accused the Labour leader of failing to protect them from intimidation, as a second MP launched a challenge for the leadership. Amid complaints from MPs about threats and online abuse, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) said Mr Corbyn had failed to do enough to stop it.

  Johanna Baxter said a number of NEC members at a meeting on Tuesday to determine if Mr Corbyn should automatically appear on the leadership ballot had faced bullying.

  “Certain groups within the party published my personal contact details online; one of my colleagues has just recently had a stalker sectioned – she was in tears, she begged the leader for a secret ballot to protect her and also other colleagues who had received intimidating and bullying behaviour. And the thing that really upset me about that meeting was that the Labour Party leader voted against the proposal to have a secret ballot to protect colleagues,” she said.

  Mr Corbyn has publicly condemned intimidation and abuse of his opponents within the party, adding that he had faced much abuse himself. But the atmosphere between the Labour leader’s supporters and most of his parliamentary party has become so sulphurous that his words are likely to have little impact on either side.

  Mr Corbyn faces a leadership contest following this week’s challenge by former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle. She was joined on Wednesday by former work and pensions secretary Owen Smith, who only a few weeks ago expressed confidence in Mr Corbyn to lead the party into an election in 2020.

  “Whilst Jeremy is a good man with great Labour values who has done a lot for this party and I think changed the debate in this country about our economy – he’s been right about lots of things - but he is not a leader who can lead us into an election and win for Labour,” Mr Smith told the BBC on Wednesday.

  Ms Eagle has struggled to overcome her voting record, including support for the Iraq war in 2003 and for bombing Syria last year. Mr Smith, who was not an MP at the time of the Iraq war, is positioning himself to her left, and distancing himself from Mr Corbyn’s most vociferous critics on the right of the party.

  “I will stand in this election and I will do the decent thing and fight Jeremy Corbyn on the issues, just as he will do with me, and at the end of that I will stand behind whoever the leader is. But I hope and I expect it will be me,” he said.

  “I refused to have any part in discussions, which have been destructive, from a small group of people on the right who, just like those on the left, it seems to me, are now prepared to let Labour split.”

  The NEC on Tuesday agreed that Mr Corbyn will automatically appear on the leadership ballot but introduced restrictions on who will be able to vote in the contest, which his rivals hope will benefit them.