Jeremy Corbyn has responded to the 44 female Labour MPs who warned about “escalating abuse and hostility” by pledging to designate a member of staff to deal specifically with a spate of harassment and intimidation, the Guardian can reveal.
In a letter to the lead signatory Paula Sherriff, the Labour leader says he wants to see a new role with a particular focus on threats to women.
In his letter, Corbyn says: “I agree that as well as condemning all abuse and harassment, there should be swift and tangible action against those responsible.
“I believe we should reinforce our own internal party procedures in relation to this issue and I will be proposing to the general secretary of the Labour party that we designate a member of staff to focus on dealing with harassment and intimidation of women in particular.”
Corbyn’s intervention comes after Sherriff told the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast on Wednesday that she was shocked that she had not received a reply to her letter, sent last week.
Sherriff’s letter expressed alarm that the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and other shadow ministers have addressed rallies where demonstrations outside MPs’ offices or bullying at constituency Labour party meetings have been “actively encouraged or quietly condoned”. The strongly worded letter added that MPs have experienced rape threats, death threats and other incidents, amid a climate of worry following the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox in June.
It said that female and non-white MPs have been disproportionately affected by the abuse. “We all have a duty to challenge and unequivocally condemn all threatening and intimidating behaviour,” it said, referring to “severe distress” caused to MPs and their staff.
“The culture of hatred and division that is being sown does not benefit anybody, not the party, not the leader and certainly not the British people,” Sherriff’s letter said.
“We hope that a significant shift takes place within the Labour party regarding the way we deal with future incidents.”
Corbyn said he had responded in a public statement, and reiterated his “condemnation of all abuse” and called for a kinder politics. He said that he had asked for no demonstrations outside MP’s surgeries in the current climate.
Corbyn’s letter also defended the fact that he had not wanted a secret ballot during a Labour NEC meeting, which was to decide whether he could automatically stand in the leadership election. He said he opposed it on grounds of “lack of precedent and perceptions of accountability” and said transparency was important.
This article was written by Anushka Asthana Political editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th July 2016 17.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010