Tom Watson says Tories 'hell bent on viciously attacking Jeremy Corbyn' amid fresh terror row
Tom Watson has accused the Conservatives of a “vicious” personal campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, amid more questions about his attendance at events linked to the commemoration of terrorists.
The Labour deputy leader said the Tory tactic of relentlessly attacking Mr Corbyn was to "avoid exposing the deficiencies of Theresa May to public scrutiny".
His comment came as a 2014 Morning Star article written by the Labour leader has emerged, in which he gives an account of a conference in Tunisia which apparently paid tribute to Atef Bseiso, who was believed to be involved in the 1972 ,assacre of Jewish athletes at the Munich Olympics.
In it, Mr Corbyn talks about wreaths being laid at the graves of those “killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991” – apparently a reference to Bseiso, who was assassinated in 1992.
Asked about the article by Sky News, the Labour leader denied that he was honouring Bseiso.
“We were searching for peace in the Middle East,” he insisted.
“The only way we achieve peace is by bringing people together and talking to them. That was the whole point of that conference; that's been, frankly, the whole point of my life.”
A source close to Mr Corbyn told the Telegraph that he had been attending commemorations at the meeting for those killed in the bombing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation by the Israeli military.
“Also in the same cemetery there are some other people in it, some of these people – not Jeremy, he was just physically present – also laid a wreath on another grave,” the source added.
It is the latest in a string of questions about Mr Corbyn’s attitudes towards former terrorists, with the Conservatives criticising the Labour leader’s associations with the Irish republican movement in the 1970s and 80s.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson accused the Conservatives of being “hell bent on viciously attacking Jeremy Corbyn” in the absence of a more compelling campaign message.
He told The Guardian that Theresa May’s refusal to debate Mr Corbyn one-on-one was backfiring on the Prime Minister.
“The more they avoid exposing the deficiencies of Theresa May to public scrutiny, the more people are beginning to realise that she’s not up to the job,” he said.
“You’ve only got to look at her handling of the dementia tax issue to know what a poor negotiator she is.”
Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Mr Corbyn had “spent 30 years siding with those who oppose Britain”.
“Too often he has either ignored the horrendous actions of Britain’s enemies as he stands by their side, or worse still sought to excuse their actions,” he added.
Jennifer Gerber, the director of the Labour Friends of Israel group, demanded answers about Mr Corbyn’s attendance.
“It is almost unbelievable that any Labour MP would participate in a ceremony honouring a man involved in the vicious murder of innocent Israeli athletes,” she said.
“Unfortunately, this appears to be part of a very disturbing pattern of behaviour and we are seeking urgent clarification from the Leaders office on this matter."
Mr Corbyn and Mrs May will take part in a live show on Sky and Channel 4 tonight, with each leader being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman before taking questions from a studio audience.