Leading Corbyn ally says Labour MPs who back May over Russia are his 'political enemies'
A close ally of Jeremy Corbyn has said that Labour MPs who support Theresa May over the Salisbury spy poisoning are his "political enemies".
Former shadow minister Chris Williamson also suggested that backbench colleagues John Woodcock and Ian Austin should quit the party.
Mr Williamson's comments, which he made at a Momentum meeting in Ealing, west London, came amid a furious row among Labour MPs over Jeremy Corbyn's response to the nerve agent attack on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia almost two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, Theresa May told the Commons that "there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable" for what happened.
But while he has condemned the poisoning, Mr Corbyn has said more evidence is needed before the Kremlin can be blamed.
Writing in The Guardian, the Labour leader suggested that "Russian mafia-like groups" may have carried out the attack after getting their hands on the potentially deadly substance.
According to the Huffington Post, Derby North MP Mr Williamson said Tory MPs had been "baying for blood" when the Prime Minister updated parliament on the incident two days ago.
He added: "Regrettably we have a few on our own benches who are like-minded, 18 of them have singed an Early Day Motion (EDM) saying they unequivocally accept Russia are responsible for the attack."
Mr Williamson - who was sacked as shadow fire minister last year after calling for council tax to be doubled on the most expensive homes - said it was "far from certain" that the Kremlin was to blame for the attack.
Praising Mr Corbyn, he said: "It’s exactly the sort of response you want from a leader, rather than the knee-jerk response you are getting from the Tories and one or two on our own benches..
"It would definitely be helpful, I think, for our own people on the green benches to actually fall in behind the leader’s very statesmanlike and measured response.
"It only helps our political enemies. But frankly I see them as political enemies as well."
He added: "To be honest with you I’d be quite happy if some of them buggered off. The likes of John Woodcock and Ian Austin and people like that, God, it’s so depressing.
"Let them stand as independents and see how far they get. The only reason why they are in parliament is because they're standing under the Labour flag, the Labour brand and the hard work of ordinary party members going out and knocking on doors."
In his Guardian article, Mr Corbyn warned against a "McCarthyite intolerance of dissent" of anyone who suggests a cautious approach to handling the crisis.
In a Christmas message posted on Twitter, Mr Williamson called on Labour members to "select candidates who support the progressive agenda" that won Mr Corbyn two leadership elections, in a thinly-veiled hint that the leader's critics should be deselected.