UK Politics

John McDonnell apologises over Labour MPs 'abuse list'

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Corbyn defended the list of MPs during a debate

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has apologised about the release of a list of MPs accused of "abuse" towards Jeremy Corbyn and his allies.

Two MPs have made formal complaints after they were named on the list, which was compiled by Mr Corbyn's team and sent to the Press Association.

Mr McDonnell apologised, saying it was a briefing note and he was "furious" it had been sent out by mistake.

One of the MPs to complain said this amounted to "harassment and bullying".

Deputy leader Tom Watson, who also featured on the list, said he had received an apology.

The latest row comes just over a week before Labour announces its new leader, with Owen Smith challenging Mr Corbyn.

Relations between the two campaigns have soured, with both sides accused of abusive language towards the other.

The briefing from Mr Corbyn's team accused Mr Smith of being the "real disunity candidate", citing comments by Smith-supporting MPs Jess Phillips, Tristram Hunt and John Woodcock, as well as by Mr Watson.

It urged Mr Smith to "explicitly condemn those who have threatened to split the party and tear it apart, as well as condemn the abuse instigated by his high-profile supporters".

Mr Watson said he had been told the list had been released by mistake by a junior press officer in Mr Corbyn's campaign team.

'Trial by troll'

The BBC understands Mr Woodcock is one of the MPs to make a formal complaint to the party's chief whip and its general secretary.

"It is my clear view that targeting individuals like this amounts to harassment and bullying by the leader of the parliamentary party who is supposed to have a duty of care towards his fellow Labour MPs," Mr Woodcock's letter says.

Another of the MPs named, Neil Coyle, tweeted: "Desperate, trial by troll, victim-culture claims from an anonymous source backing Corbyn this eve. Fuming."

But asked about it at Bloomberg HQ in London, following a speech by Mr Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: "That release came from the campaign, it didn't come from Jeremy. We have apologised, it was just inappropriate.

"One of our researchers saw a bit of incoming flak and then did a list of all the statements that have been made by other MPs, some of which were not particularly kind... it was a briefing note, it shouldn't have gone out and we apologised for that.

"It certainly wasn't a list in any way to attack anyone, it was just a factual report."

'Set us back'

He said he felt progress had been made over the summer to improve unity in the party - evidenced, he said, by support for Mr Corbyn at this week's Prime Minister's Questions - and there was "no dispute at all" over its economic policy, so he felt the release of the list had "set us back and I was furious about it, to be frank".

"Just at a time when we were, I think, really rebuilding relationships very very well throughout the summer - I hope it hasn't set us back and we will certainly have a conversation with all those involved."

Mr Corbyn was asked about the row during a leaders' debate on Sky News.

He said: "There was information put out there which is statements that colleagues made on the record and it's all stuff that is out there on the public record."

Mr Smith said the list was "deeply divisive".

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