‘Vital democratic campaign’: Corbyn rejects calls to abandon Stop the War Coalition

Anti-war protestors stop a taxi as they block the road during a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, December 2, 2015. © Peter Nicholls
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has rejected calls by right-wing Labour MPs to distance himself from the Stop the War Coalition, of which he was once chairman.

Corbyn has pledged to attend the annual dinner of the Stop the War Coalition on Friday despite calls by right-wing Labour MP Tristram Hunt to distance himself from the group.

The anti-war movement has been a vital democratic campaign which organized the biggest demonstrations in British history and has repeatedly called it right over 14 years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East,” a spokesperson for Corbyn told the Guardian.

Jeremy Corbyn rejects any form of abuse in politics from any quarter,” the spokesperson said. “But he will not accept attempts to portray campaigning, lobbying and protest as somehow beyond the pale. In fact, it’s at the heart of democracy.

Hunt, a journalist and historian who once famously crossed a picket line to deliver a lecture on socialism, called the organization “disreputable.

We have also seen some pretty ugly comments from them about Hilary Benn and the fact that Hilary Benn should be sacked,” he told the Guardian on Sunday.

He also referred to a Stop the War blog posted shortly after the Paris attacks, which was quickly removed. He said the article had effectively blamed France for the November 13 massacre.

He condemned “their comments about Islamic State, their comments about how the French almost had it coming to them.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of last Wednesday’s parliamentary debate, in which MPs voted to extend airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) from Iraq into Syria, Stop the War convener Lindsey German said the blog had been inappropriate and had quickly been removed for that reason.

In his comments, Hunt called Stop the War a “really disreputable organization and I would hope that Jeremy would step back and not go to their fundraiser.

The row comes amid rumors of a shadow cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the Syria vote. One supporting factor is Labour’s substantial by-election victory in Oldham West on Thursday – a ringing endorsement for Corbyn’s leadership.

Now Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has been strengthened,” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell wrote in the Guardian on Saturday.

The message is clear: unite around the principles of the new politics and we can be the most powerful force for progressive political change in generations.

Sixty-six Labour MPs voted for the Conservative government’s motion to bomb Syria, including 11 members of the shadow cabinet.

While it is reported that Corbyn has no interest in pursuing a vendetta against those who voted for airstrikes, he wants to see coherence in the cabinet, having been boosted by the Oldham West win.