Yvette Cooper condemns left-wing 'intimidation' of Luciana Berger and attacks on Theresa May
Yvette Cooper has accused Labour activists of mounting a campaign of "intimidation" against Luciana Berger after the MP was told to apologise for not supporting Jeremy Corbyn in the past.
Former frontbencher Ms Cooper also condemned left-wing protesters who brandished placards at a recent march showing Theresa May's head on a spike - comparing them to Donald Trump supporters who targeted Hilary Clinton.
She said the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox a year ago showed why the party's supporters should challenge "aggression and hatred" wherever they find it.
And she also hit out at criticism of BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who has come under attack from those on the left and right of politics.
It emerged earlier this week that supporters of Mr Corbyn had won control of the Labour branch in Ms Berger's Liverpool Wavertree constituency.
Roy Bentham, one of the newly-elected officials, said: “She will now have to sit round the table with us the next time she wants to vote for bombing in Syria or to pass a no confidence motion in the leader of the party – she will have to be answerable to us. We would like her to come out publicly like other MPs have done and apologise for not supporting him in the past.”
In a speech to the Fabian Society annual conference, Ms Cooper said: "Sometimes our party members and supporters target each other, frankly Labour party members should be united in supporting Luciana Berger, not targeting her or trying to intimidate her – always something that should be unacceptable within Labour, even more shameful to target someone who has stood up to fascists, especially when she is on maternity leave.
"Nor should we accept vitriolic abuse against our opponents. Shamefully, during this general election campaign we’ve seen Tory women MPs and candidates targeted with some vile abuse from the left. And Labour supporters at rallies holding placards with the severed head of Theresa May. Maybe it was meant as a joke. It isn’t funny.
"I’ve spent 20 years opposing Theresa May. Twenty years challenging almost everything she’s done. I feel huge anger at what she is doing to this country. But I never ever want to Labour people mocking up pictures of her head on a stake. I never ever want our party to dehumanise our opponents. That’s what the far right do.
"It’s what the Trump cheerleaders did to Hilary Clinton. It’s the normalising of vitriol and hatred that if we let it go on corrupts our democracy, undermines human kindness and respect. And in the Labour party we should know because we’ve already lost someone to hatred."
Ms Cooper added: "Aggression and hatred towards others isn’t what won us votes in this election. And it isn’t what has won us growing support we’ve seen in the polls since. Quite the opposite.
"What struck people about Jeremy Corbyn when he went to Grenfell Tower was his empathy and compassion. I believe there is a real appetite now for the politics of kindness and humanity. Jeremy understood that two years ago when he talked about the kinder, gentler politics.
"It should be at the heart of what we stand for – as the party that fights against cruel Government policies and injustice. We can fight for our values without vitriol, stand up against bullies wherever we find them. For us anger is the well-spring of change, not of mindless abuse. We can disagree and debate both within our party and without and still show some kindness and respect."
Highlighting attacks on the impartiality of the BBC, Ms Cooper said: "Frankly, I am sick to death of the vitriol poured out from all sides towards Laura Kuenssberg. It is her job to ask difficult questions. It is her job to be sceptical about everything we say. Nothing justifies the personal vitriol, or the misogyny. It’s straight out of the Trump playbook.
"And as with Trump, it is part of a wider attack on the very institutions we need to sustain our democracy. Institutions like the BBC which save us from the demagoguery of tyrants or the megaphones of media moguls.
"Now facing a frenzied level of criticism from Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox accusing the BBC of lack of patriotism for asking questions on Brexit, from Alex Salmond accusing the BBC of running Scotland down - and from all sides – including many in Labour – for systematic bias.
"In a world of fake news, whether we agree with them or not, we need independent, impartial news broadcasting more than ever. And it’s time we did the unfashionable thing and started defending the BBC."