Fresh Labour row as Jeremy Corbyn accused of watering down pro-EU letter

Posted On: 
5th June 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has caused a fresh row with his MPs after appearing to water down a letter setting out Labour's commitment to the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn at a pro-EU Labour ralley earlier this week
Credit: 
PA Images

The letter, which was signed by around 200 Labour MPs, said the party was "united in arguing that we are better off remaining in the European Union".

It was drafted by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson and approved by Alan Johnson, head of the Labour In For Britain campaign group.

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But Mr Corbyn's office yesterday demanded that line be changed to say that Labour "overwhelmingly believes we are better off".

One party source told PoliticsHome: "They literally went to all 200 MPs and said 'Jeremy is changing the letter - here's the new version, you've got an hour to say you want to unsign it or your name is remaining on it'. It is disgusting behaviour. People are very angry and a lot of them think Jeremy is actively sabotaging the Remain campaign."

Mr Corbyn has faced criticism after a poll last week showed that half of Labour voters do not know where the party stands on the EU referendum.

Although he had been opposed to the EU throughout his political career, Mr Corbyn said he supported it after becoming Labour leader last year.

But he has been accused of not being vociferous enough in making the case for Britain to stay in the EU.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: "Jeremy agreed one letter and that went out signed by the MPs."

'RAW DEAL'

Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman today defended Mr Corbyn.

She told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "He's got different arguments from David Cameron, of course he has, but he's wanting us to remain in, there's no doubt about that."

Deputy leader of the party Tom Watson told Sky News' Murnaghan show Mr Corbyn had been getting a “raw deal” from critics after campaigning hard for a Remain vote.

“I do feel very sorry for Jeremy. He was in Cornwall campaigning yesterday, Cardiff the day before, he has been making speech after speech after speech about Labour's case to remain in the European Union. I think he's getting a bit of a raw deal about that.”

And Tim Roache, the new GMB general secretary, also said Mr Corbyn had satisfied his calls for the Labour leader to campaign more clearly for a Remain vote.

“I called for Jeremy Corbyn to come out and be a bit less half hearted about Europe and say positive things about why Labour's case is to remain in Europe,” he told the same show.

“He did a fantastic job of that Thursday morning.”