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Jeremy Corbyn to attend Stop the War event despite calls for him to pull out

Published 06/12/2015

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

A defiant Jeremy Corbyn has made clear he will go ahead with an appearance at a fundraising event for the Stop the War coalition, despite criticism over the group's outspoken attacks on some Labour MPs.

The Labour leader - who was the Stop the War's chair prior to his election as party leader in September - has been facing calls to pull out of the fundraising dinner for the group described by critics in the party as "really disreputable".

But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn made clear that he would ignore the demands, praising Stop the War's record in opposing British military intervention saying its protests were "at the heart of democracy".

"The anti-war movement has been a vital democratic campaign, which organised the biggest demonstrations in British history and has repeatedly called it right over 14 years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East," the spokesman said.

"Jeremy Corbyn rejects any form of abuse in politics from any quarter. But he will not accept attempts to portray campaigning lobbying and protest as somehow beyond the pale. In fact it's at the heart of democracy."

His comments are likely to inflame tensions within the party after last week's Commons debate on Syria which saw 66 Labour MPs - including 21 frontbenchers - defy their leader's wishes and vote for military action.

In the aftermath of the vote some MPs complained they were subjected a barrage of online abuse and threats of de-selection by pro-Corbyn supporters, with Stop the War among the most strident critics.

The group has demanded the sacking of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn after he rallied support for air strikes in a barnstorming Commons speech.

It has also caused outrage with comments following the Paris terror attacks suggesting the city had "reaped the whirlwind" for Western actions in the Middle East and comparing jihadists to the International Brigade volunteers who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

Former shadow cabinet minister Tristram Hunt said Mr Corbyn should pull out of the fundraiser which is due to take place in a Turkish restaurant in London on Friday.

"The Stop the War coalition picketed the Labour Party headquarters when we were trying to run a phone-bank for the Oldham by-election so they were preventing the election of a Labour Member of Parliament," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"We have also seen some pretty ugly comments from them about Hilary Benn and the fact that Hilary Benn should be sacked. Also their comments about Islamic State, their comments about how the French almost had it coming to them.

"They are a really disreputable organisation and I would hope that Jeremy would step back and not go to their fundraiser."

Meanwhile, shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith dismissed reports that Mr Corbyn was planning a purge of dissenters in a New Year shadow cabinet reshuffle.

"I think this is just newspaper tittle-tattle. What I've seen of the way Jeremy Corbyn has handled this in shadow cabinet is that he's been very keen to stress respect for the different views," he told BBC1's Sunday Politics programme.

However shadow chancellor John McDonnell - Mr Corbyn's closest ally in his top team - said his position had been strengthened by Labour's better-than-expected victory in the Oldham West and Royton by-election.

Writing in The Observer, he made clear that Mr Corbyn remained intent on transforming the Labour Party into "something more akin to a mass social movement", adding "there is no going back".

"The new leader was also elected with an overwhelming mandate on a political programme that seeks to take the party in a direction that reflects the current views of party members," he wrote.

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