UK Politics

Stop the War defends Corbyn over fundraising dinner row

Jeremy Corbyn arriving at Stop the War dinner on 11 December 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Corbyn, seen here arriving at the dinner, recently stood down as Stop the War chairman

The chairman of the Stop the War campaign group has defended Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's decision to attend its fundraising dinner.

Some Labour MPs urged Mr Corbyn to stay away from Friday's event over concerns about a controversial blog posted by campaigners following attacks in Paris.

But new chairman Andrew Murray said their criticism was "ridiculous".

Mr Murray, who replaces Mr Corbyn in the role, said the Labour leader was part of the campaign's backbone.

Mr Murray, a trade unionist and journalist who previously chaired Stop the War for 10 years, said the quarter of a million people who had voted for Mr Corbyn to lead Labour "did so because of his stand against war, not in spite of it".

He said: "This unity between a mass campaigning movement and the leadership of the Labour Party clearly makes some uncomfortable.

"Their new year's resolution needs to be to get used to it."

He described the fundraising event as "a very successful evening" with lots of money raised, adding that Mr Corbyn was given a "warm reception".

"All the attacks on us have simply served to draw attention to our cause and our campaign," he said.

Mr Corbyn has described the group as a "vital force" and "one of the most important democratic campaigns of modern times", which had brought "hundreds of thousands of people" to protests.

On Saturday, Stop the War protesters gathered at BBC headquarters in central London for a rally denouncing UK airstrikes against Syria, before marching to Downing Street.

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Media caption"It was a defiant message to those in his party, who said he should not have come here tonight at all", reports Carole Walker

Mr Corbyn, who has been a leading member of the Stop the War coalition since it was founded, used Friday's speech to praise its campaigns against military interventions.

"It has been shown to be right in opposing more than a decade of disastrous wars - in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya - while many of its most vociferous critics supported them," he said.

Senior Labour figures, including MPs Caroline Flint and Tristram Hunt, had urged Mr Corbyn to shun the event.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has also resigned as a patron of Stop the War, citing concerns about the positions it has adopted.

A tweet and article published in the wake of the attacks on Paris last month suggested France had "reaped the whirlwind" of Western support for extremist violence in the Middle East.

Both were later removed and disowned by the organisation's leaders, but critics have highlighted another article last week which argued jihadists were driven by a "spirit of internationalism and solidarity" akin to the International Brigades that fought in the Spanish Civil War.

'Long-standing association'

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC's Newsnight he would not "commentate on what organisations Jeremy Corbyn chooses to be member of".

"He's got a long-standing association with this organisation, he's got a long-standing opposition to different types of intervention," said Mr Miliband. "He spoke on this in the Syria debate.

"I think our party's focus should be on taking the fight to the Tories and working out the ideas that are going to win us the next general election, not Jeremy Corbyn's political engagements."

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