EXCL Senior Labour MP warns Jeremy Corbyn bully row will cost party votes

Posted On: 
21st February 2018

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned that a bullying row which hit Labour at the weekend will cost the party votes in future elections.

PLP chairman John Cryer confronted Jeremy Corbyn at a meeting in parliament.
PA Images

John Cryer, chairman of the parliamentary Labour party, delivered the stark message to his leader at a face-to-face meeting this evening.

A furious row erupted last Saturday at a meeting of Labour's National Policy Forum in Leeds when its vice-chair, Katrina Murray, was over-ruled by a senior male party official.

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Andy Kerr, the chair of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee, interrupted Ms Murray on stage to block her attempts to elect a new NPF.

Critics accused the party leadership of seeking to hold the process up because Ann Black - who was ousted as head of Labour's disciplinary body last month amid claims she was not loyal enough to Mr Corbyn - was set to win the contest.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry further angered her colleagues when she told ITV's Peston on Sunday programme that the row was "one of those things".

She said: "I think there are allegations that she was pushed, she was shoved, she was intimidated, that there was anti-Semitism."

A meeting of Labour's parliamentary committee - which includes MPs from constituencies across the UK - this afternoon heard concerns that the controversy could damage the party's reputation among the general public.

One MP present told PoliticsHome: "One of the things that came through really strongly was that this isn't an isolated incident, and that it could be used to encourage more hardline local activists to try to intimidate chairs in other meetings.

"Emily likening it to anti-Semitism is also incredibly troubling for a party trying to condemn bullying more widely and undermines the legitimate complaints of anti-Semitism by party members.

"This is making our party less attractive. A point a couple of us made was that we need to hold on to everyone who voted for us last year as well as reaching out to Tory areas if we want to form a government. Any suggestion that we as a party condone bullying will put people off from voting Labour."

But speaking at the weekend, a Labour source said the bullying claims against Mr Kerr were "unfounded".

He said: "Katrina Murray tried to act outside of the rules and Andy Kerr intervened. For elections to be valid, seven days notice is required according to party rules.

"That's why the NEC ruled out an election at its first opportunity. NPF officers can't call an election as it would have breached rules. The NPF can't overrule the NEC."