Labour MPs are becoming increasingly agitated about the amount of abuse and intimidation they are receiving, to the extent that the party’s chief whip has complained to Jeremy Corbyn and written to the head of Corbynite group Momentum to seek assurances that it is cracking down on bad behaviour in its ranks.
Rosie Winterton has been writing to Jon Lansman, who chairs Momentum, over the past week about allegations from a number of Labour MPs about activists from the group. The group has officially made it clear that people shouldn’t be protesting outside MPs’ offices, or intimidating their staff. But many parliamentarians are extremely upset by the level of abuse they are receiving, not just online but at meetings too. At a Labour party meeting in Hove at the weekend, a steward at the college hosting the meeting was spat at by an activist, while Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire’s activists were left ‘frightened, intimidated and in tears’ after a confrontation with pro-Corbyn Momentum activists at a recent local party meeting. Angela Eagle, meanwhile, had a brick thrown through her office window and her staff threatened.
At the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting this week, a series of MPs complained about the threats that they had received and the atmosphere they were having to work in. Those MPs included Warrington North MP Helen Jones, Paula Sheriff and Jack Dromey. Winterton told MPs that she has also made representations to the leader’s office about the threats and intimidation, and asked for people to come to her with examples of the sort of behaviour they are having to deal with so that the party’s compliance unit can remove any members guilty of harassing or abusing MPs. The Speaker has also sent around the details for the Parliamentary health and welfare service, which is useful for MPs but even more important for their staff, who are often the people who actually have to walk past protests outside offices, or answer the phone to someone making death threats.
Most Labour and Momentum activists aren’t behaving like this, but the atmosphere created by those who do choose to threaten MPs is naturally having a pretty profound effect on many parliamentarians. It would be odd if a torrent of online abuse, death threats over the phone and face-to-face intimidation didn’t have an effect on MPs: they would be thick-skinned to a level that made it impossible for them to do their job properly if they were able to shrug this sort of behaviour off.