Corbyn denies ‘enabling’ abuse after Angela Eagle forced to cancel public meetings for safety
Rebel Labour MP Angela Eagle has cancelled her public advice surgeries on police advice after a string of violent threats and incidents – but party leader Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he has not “stirring” abuse against her.
The MP for Wallasey was a key shadow cabinet ally of Jeremy Corbyn until last month, when she launched a leadership challenge against him – though she has since bowed out in favour of another challenger, Owen Smith.
But the leadership challenge sparked an angry backlash from Corbyn supporters.
Her Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has been suspended after allegations of “bullying, intimidation, misogyny and homophobia” directed at Eagle and her staff, though allegations of any abuse have been strongly denied by some Corbyn-supporting members.
Her office has also warned about a string of threats and abuse.
Ms Eagle has now been forced to cancel all her public advice surgeries on police advice – just months after Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and killed outside a surgery.
She confirmed: “We have been getting so much abuse direct to the office and the advice surgeries are normally done in public, [the police] have sent me an email advising me to cancel them.”
“I think it’s also in the aftermath of what happened to Jo Cox. I am going to take [police] advice this time, but people can still contact my office by phone and email.
“It’s with great reluctance that I’m doing this, but the safety of my staff is paramount.”
In a separate interview, she laid some of the blame at Mr Corbyn’s door. The Labour Party leader has issued many statements condemning direct action against MPs, but Ms Eagle said he had not done enough to tackle the culture of abuse.
She told the Telegraph: “I think he has contributed to this. It’s all very well to condemn it but there’s a permissive environment. You can make any number of ritual condemnations as you like but you have got to be judged by your actions not just words.
“He has been stirring, he needs to be held to account. We have contacted the police and they have said we should cancel surgeries for safety reasons.
“I’m afraid for my staff. It’s them that have been up there not me. It’s them that have had to field the calls.”
In a separate interview with the BBC, Mr Corbyn attacked her for the suggestion that he had ‘stirred’ abuse.
He said: “I really regret that Angela has used comments like that.
“I regret the incident at her office and I apologised… I didn’t apologise because I didn’t cause it, but I said I’m very sorry for what happened to her office that day.
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“I have made it very clear that harassment and abusive language have absolutely no place in our political discourse.
“I receive plenty of abusive language. I don’t respond to it in any way because I don’t wish to demean myself or promote the person that’s using that kind of abusive language.
“I think we should lower the temperature and increase the quality of the debate.”
Labour challenger Owen Smith said: “Angela is right it has effectively been licensed over the last nine months.
“It is not good enough for Jeremy to say he has threats too. I have had threats too and I am telling him ‘it has got to be stamped out and we have to have zero tolerance’ of this in the Labour Party.
“The truth is many of the people who are heaping abuse on people are Jeremy’s supporters. It is just a fact that it is Jeremy’s side of the argument that is engaging in this great volume of abuse.”