Angela Eagle was target of homophobic abuse, claim Labour members

Angela Eagle

Angela Eagle’s local Labour party is in further turmoil over a formal complaint that alleges she was referred to as “Angie the dyke”, and that a member was threatened with being punched in the head at an official meeting.

The Labour MP, who challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership before withdrawing from the contest, saw her constituency party of Wallasey suspended last month over the claim of bullying and intimidation.

The complaint by 17 Wallasey party members, seen by the Guardian, alleges that Eagle was the subject of the homophobic slur, and that others were intimidated at the annual general meeting on 24 June, which the MP did not attend.

However, the claims are so hotly contested by Eagle’s critics that some members are holding an unofficial meeting to discuss the crisis on Tuesday, despite a party edict banning them from gathering.

The meeting, held under the banner of Wirral TUC, has been advertised to local Labour members and supporters, telling them: “This is your chance to find out what is really going on in Wallasey Labour party and your chance to have your say.

“Why are the 1,400-plus members of the Wallasey party not allowed to meet, what are the accusations being made, are they true, why are 150,000 fully paid-up Labour party members not being allowed to vote in the leadership election, including over 540 who live in Wallasey?”

One of the organisers, Paul Davies, a vice-chair of the suspended party, said the allegations of intimidation and bullying were “all lies”, and that he planned to explain to Labour members “all the inconsistencies, what’s happened, what’s been said”.

Eagle was invited to the Wirral TUC event, but a spokesman said she was unable to attend. One of her allies has now submitted a formal complaint that local Labour members have been sent flyers on the basis of data that was “illegally procured and used by an external organisation and/or unauthorised people without consent”.

The original complaint about the AGM was made by 17 delegates led by Paul Stuart, also a vice-chairman of the suspended party.

“Meetings have become very hostile, with people attending who should not be present. Members have been heard threatening people, saying they ‘Would come back there and punch you in the head’ for having an opinion. This is commonplace now and goes unchallenged by anyone because of intimidation and bullying,” the complaint says.

“When people try to leave, people stand in the way of the door and are told those trying to leave, they are not leaving and sit down. While people do leave, the actions are an intimidating act ... At our AGM, when electing the LBGT officer, there was some delegates who started limping their wrists to each other and laughing. Homophobic comments have been said by members including ‘Angie the dyke’, making reference to Angela Eagle MP.”

This account is strongly disputed by Davies, who said in a letter to Tribune magazine that accusations that Eagle was called “Angie the Dyke” were a Wallasey “folk myth”.

Davies told the Guardian there would have been uproar if such comments were made: “There were 44 people in a room not much bigger than my front room. It was cheek to jowl, no one could do much [without] someone else knowing.

“Nobody heard a comment of homophobia or any intimidation in that meeting. Nobody mentioned it despite the fact there was maybe four or five councillors, several full-time officials, there were a number of gay people. It is not as if it was full of timid people.”

He said he had been delivering flyers to all houses in the hope of reaching Labour members who were interested in the Wirral TUC meeting, so there was no data-protection breach.

The tensions in Wallasey began three days before Eagle challenged for the Labour leadership and then withdrew, but she was already being mooted as a candidate at the time by the media.

The day after she declared as a candidate, her staff said a brick was thrown through the window of a stairwell in her office building. Some of her opponents have questioned whether the incident was linked to her challenging Corbyn, but Eagle made it clear she believes they are related, appearing in the media at the time asking the leader to “control” his supporters.

Eagle has also linked her opponents in Wallasey constituency Labour party to members who have joined under the leadership of Corbyn. “There’s a disruptive, newly joined element, many of whom were thrown out [of the Labour Party] in the 1990s, who are making a lot of noise,” she told ITV last month.

At least one branch in Wallasey has passed a no-confidence motion in Eagle and declared support for Corbyn in the leadership contest.

Responding to questions about the Wirral meeting, a spokesman for Eagle said: “Angela is happy to meet any constituent to discuss their concerns. They can make an appointment to see her at her surgery or contact her offices in Wallasey or Westminster for a meeting.

“It is a shame Mr Davies feels it is better to spend his time organising internally facing meetings, rather than doing what Angela is doing, which is working in Wallasey and around the country for a strong, united Labour party that can take on the Tories and heal the divisions that six years of Tory government have caused.”

The controversy in Wallasey came as Corbyn again proved his ability to draw crowds of thousands – even in the rain. Speaking to a packed crowd at a rally in St George’s Plateau in Liverpool, he stressed the importance of reaching out to people beyond Labour and rejected the idea that he is exists in a “bubble of adulation”.

Corbyn received a further boost when the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) became the third to endorse his leadership.

Powered by article was written by Rowena Mason Deputy political editor, for The Guardian on Monday 1st August 2016 20.16 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010