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Labour 'bullying' row as second MP to oppose Corbyn in leadership race

By Andrew Woodcock

A second Labour MP has thrown his hat into the ring in the race to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the party leadership.

Former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith joined Angela Eagle in seeking to unseat the veteran left-winger, declaring he would be a "radical and credible" leader who could take Labour back into power.

Mr Smith launched his bid the day after Mr Corbyn secured his place on the ballot paper for a contest expected to stretch through the summer, after the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled that only challengers, and not the incumbent leader, have to collect 51 nominations from MPs.

The Pontypridd MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was the right decision to ensure that Mr Corbyn can take part in the contest.

He accused some on the right of the party of acting in a way that could "split" Labour.

He said: "I will stand in this election and I will do the decent thing and fight Jeremy Corbyn on the issues, just as he will do with me, and at the end of that I will stand behind whoever the leader is. But I hope and I expect it will be me."

Mr Smith's announcement came amid reports that the NEC has suspended all local Constituency Labour Party meetings until the end of the leadership campaign following complaints of harassment and intimidation.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell insisted that he expected an "amicable" contest which would focus on policies.

He denounced incidents such as the brick thrown through Ms Eagle's constituency office window as "scandalous", but denied they were committed by Corbyn supporters. Mr Corbyn had made clear that violence and bullying "should not be part of our politics" and any Labour member found responsible for such actions would be expelled, he said.

Mr McDonnell told a pro-Corbyn rally on Tuesday evening that opponents of the Labour leader had been "plotting and conniving" against him, adding: "The only good thing about it is that as plotters they were f****** useless."

Speaking to the Today programme, he brushed off the comment as a "joke" and insisted it was not directed at Ms Eagle, who until recently held the business brief in Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet, but at a "small group" of MPs who had never accepted the leader's mandate and had been "plotting a coup" from the day of his election last year.

The NEC has set a January 12 cut-off date for new Labour members to have the right to vote in the upcoming leadership election, effectively blocking more than 100,000 who have joined the party since the EU referendum from taking part.

But there is a two-day window next week in which people can secure a vote by signing as registered supporters for a £25 fee.

The MP behind a no confidence motion which Mr Corbyn lost by 172 votes to 40, Dame Margaret Hodge, urged the Parliamentary Labour Party to hold hustings to choose a single "unity candidate" to challenge him.

And she accused "people around Jeremy" of "a politics of intolerance, bullying and intimidation".

Belfast Telegraph


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