Tuesday 20 August 2019

Labour's ruling body to silence MPs criticising Corbyn online

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) and his predecessor Ed Miliband leave after attending the funeral of former Labour MP Michael Meacher last week.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) and his predecessor Ed Miliband leave after attending the funeral of former Labour MP Michael Meacher last week.

Michael Wilkinson in London

Labour's ruling body will silence MPs and party members who criticise Jeremy Corbyn on social media.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) has agreed to create a new code of conduct to tackle the "very harmful leaks to the media" and curb the "very damaging way in which social media is being used".

It comes after Mr Corbyn's first 10 weeks as Labour leader have been dogged by open criticism by his own MPs.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband also refused to say yesterday whether he thought Mr Corbyn would ever walk through the doors of No 10, whilst insisting he had what it takes to be British prime minister.

NEC member Peter Willsman wrote yesterday: "Several NEC members raised the issue of the very harmful leaks to the media and the very damaging way in which social media is being used. It was agreed that we need to develop a Labour Party Code of Conduct in relation to the use of social media.

"The NEC is united in its support for Jeremy as he gets to grips with a very difficult job. I worked with Jeremy in NUPE (the National Union of Public Employees) before he became an MP. I have never met anyone as dedicated. Jeremy is totally exceptional.

"Party members want to give Jeremy a chance to show what he can do. The small number of 'comrades' who are briefing the media against Jeremy are not only disloyal to our elected leader but are harming our party. Party members are unlikely to forgive them for the damage they are doing."

However, Labour MP Stephen Pound said of the move: "This is basically a parallel organisation as far as I'm concerned, it's against the principles of the Labour party and I think less of Jeremy Corbyn for endorsing it.

"It will inevitably be seen as a threat to sitting MPs and the Labour Party in parliament - it is a retrograde step."

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes is among those Labour parliamentarians who have openly criticised their leader on Twitter.

Mr Gapes tweeted in October that the party had "no credible leadership".

Meanwhile, speaking on radio yesterday Mr Miliband said he believed that Mr Corbyn is fit to hold the office of prime minister. But he would not be drawn on whether he believes his successor as Labour leader will walk through the door of Number 10.

Mr Miliband said it is "a matter for the electorate" whether Mr Corbyn ultimately becomes prime minister.

His comments came after senior shadow cabinet minister Angela Eagle refused to say she believes Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are suited to high office.

But former leader Mr Miliband, who quit after the party's general election defeat in May, said "of course" Mr Corbyn is fit to lead Britain.

He added: "In the end that's a decision for the electorate, as I discovered to my cost."

Mr Miliband said there is a "strength in depth in terms of our membership" which Labour did not have before Mr Corbyn's leadership election victory.

"Jeremy Corbyn has doubled our membership," he told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme.

"I have seen that myself in my own constituency. As a constituency MP - and I think this is quite important - I am seeking to work out how do we use these new members so that we can do what we didn't do fully under me, which is become a community organisation that actually is a presence in communities up and down this country."


Mr Miliband stressed he is "not going to be a back-seat driver", prompting a barbed comment from 'Today' presenter Jim Naughtie, who told him: "Having crashed the car, it's difficult to do that."

The former Labour leader said Mr Corbyn is "going to argue it in his own way".

"He has set out what he believes his mandate is for, which is anti-austerity, a different approach to foreign policy and participatory politics," he said.

Asked if he believes Mr Corbyn will become prime minister, Mr Miliband said: "That's a matter for the electorate. I'm not in the predictions game and, if you'll forgive me, after my experience at the general election, predictions aren't my thing."

The former leader's appearance on 'Today' followed reports that he joked about the party's poor performance under Mr Corbyn.

'The Mail on Sunday' reported Mr Miliband told a group of MPs including Graham Stringer, who had been a critic of his leadership: "I bet you didn't think things would actually get worse."

Irish Independent

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