There is no reason at all to believe Thangam Debbonaire MP and her claim that members of her own constituency party have been “brutal” or “intimidated” others.
The claim follows a series of fabricated stories by MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, and their own followers.
So we’ve had the claim that Corbyn should be ashamed that a rally in support of him was attended by a person wearing a T-shirt saying “Eradicate the right-wing Blairite vermin” – debunked when we discovered the photograph showing this had the shirt-wearing flanked by a member of right-wing Blairite think tank Progress and a member of a public relations company that has been implicated in the attempted ‘coup’.
We had a claim that Diane Abbott was blocking members of the new Shadow Cabinet from entry to Mr Corbyn’s office in order to stop them from quitting. Ms Abbott tweeted a photograph of herself on the House of Commons balcony while the alleged incident was taking place and Andy Burnham, said to be one of those trying to see Mr Corbyn, tweeted that it was “not true”.
There was the claim that a Momentum (the grassroots group supporting Mr Corbyn’s leadership) member had subjected Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth to anti-Semitic abuse – disproved.
There was the claim that Mr Corbyn himself was guilty of anti-Semitism by comparing Israel with Islamic terrorist organisations – disproved.
Then the focus shifted to Labour members supporting Mr Corbyn. Tessa Jowell appeared on television to state that members of Angela Eagle’s constituency party – Wallasey – subjected her to homophobic abuse at the meeting when they voted to tell her she should not oppose Jeremy Corbyn. Ms Eagle did not even attend the meeting and in any case, no such abuse was uttered. So Tessa Jowell lied.
Now Thangam Debbonaire has made allegations about her own constituency party.
Her claim is supported in this article by Ruth Davies, who wrote: “It became clear that there were some very vocal Momentum members present in the room (many wearing the T shirts) who were interested in nothing but defending Corbyn and shouting down anyone who disagreed with them.
“The atmosphere was absolutely toxic, and for the first time in my dealings with the Bristol Labour Party I felt threatened.”
But others are standing up to deny the allegations. Here’s Chris Esson: “It is true that a small number were more vocal and uncivil… One of them called Debbonaire a traitor as she passed. However, these people were in the minority. Calls for everyone to listen and show consideration came from all sides – Corbyn-inspired newer members as well as more traditional Labour members.
“Although there were calls for questions representing ‘alternative points of view’, the large majority of the meeting supported Corbyn and wanted to know why their MP had joined in a series of resignations that had set the Labour party against itself at a time when strong opposition is needed more than ever.
“Some of the longer standing CLP members might, I think, have felt frustrated with this.
“Overall, the tone of debate was overwhelmingly civil. There were many strong feelings, but I heard opinions from a of variety of perspectives. I did not recognise Davies’ description of the meeting as ‘toxic’ or ‘dangerously close to bullying’.”
Or how about this, from Sasha Sadjady, whose article lists no less than seven undemocratic breaches of Labour Party rules by Ms Debbonaire, who chaire the meeting: “it was one of the most passionate and engaged political meetings I have ever taken part in and … I can’t wait for the next one.
“Ruth’s article mentions Momentum causing a ruckus. I’m not a member of Momentum (yet), but this was what I found the most confusing about her post. Apart from 4 people wearing Momentum t-shirts (there are photos!) who were dispersed across the room, and 3 people mentioning being active in Momentum during their candidacy speeches — all 3 of whom to the best of my recollection were elected — I’m not sure how she could tell who was a member and who wasn’t. I certainly couldn’t and I was actively looking for them. The interesting thing was that there weren’t two well defined blocs, rather people were listening and responding to each point. Sometimes in a rather heated way, but put 300 people in an overheated room together and tempers are going to be frayed at the best of times.
“Calls for unity can’t simply be unity in adhering to the status quo. Not everyone is going to agree and that’s fine. Passions will run high, voices will be raised but that’s fine too. People may even be a little rude to each other from time to time. Hundreds of thousands of people have joined Labour to have a voice in changing society and the party. They have joined to have this debate; it is not a distraction from gaining power but the means to do it.”
A Labour MP has described as “brutal” a local party meeting where 300 people turned up, reportedly heckling those opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, told the BBC she had not felt intimidated, but other Labour members had told her they felt “scared”.
Ms Debbonaire quit in June, telling Jeremy Corbyn “it is with sadness that I have concluded that you are not the right person to lead us”.
Asked about Thursday’s two-hour meeting, she told BBC Points West it had been “challenging” as more than 300 people had turned up and they had only been expecting 100 – so there was not enough room.
“I did my best to hear as many voices as I could. Many people have contacted me saying despite that, unfortunately, they felt there were some people in the room who were making a lot of noise and were trying to dominate the meeting.”
“It was brutal, I think some people found it very difficult. I didn’t feel intimidated but then I’m not easily intimidated but other people have said they were scared. People in the back of the room in particular said there was a lot of aggression and they were uncomfortable.”
One aspect that is very interesting is Chris Esson’s comment about Ms Debbonaire: ” She also expressed her frustration at the difficulty of communicating with Corbyn and his announcement that he wanted Article 50 to be invoked as soon as possible.
“These were her reasons for resigning, she said. She said she wanted to be able to hold up and oppose Article 50, and she could only rebel in this way from the back benches.”
Mr Corbyn did indeed say Article 50 should be invoked, immediately after the referendum result became known – but it seems this was about calling the ‘Leave’ camp’s bluff. It was a well-calculated move; Article 50 still has not been invoked and it seems unlikely that this will happen, at least in the foreseeable future.
The Labour leadership has made statements since then about the EU referendum result – that a new relationship with the EU must be negotiated. There’s no mention of Article 50 being invoked – just a call for the UK to ensure that it gets the best for our citizens, according to traditional Labour thinking.
Ms Debbonaire should be a supporter of this stance, shouldn’t she?
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