Britain’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has lashed out at opponents of Jeremy Corbyn, accusing them of trying to “destroy” the party to get rid of their leader.
Mr McDonnell said there was a “small group” responsible for the turmoil, which encompasses allegations of bullying and intimidation.
Former shadow minister, Seema Malhotra, had earlier disclosed she had lodged a formal complaint with the Speaker, John Bercow, after staff working for Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell had entered her House of Commons office without permission.
Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Mr McDonnell challenged critics of the leadership to confront himself and Corbyn directly and not to “pick on” staff who were not in a position to defend themselves.
“We have got to stop this now. There is a small group out there that are willing to destroy our party just to remove Jeremy Corbyn. We have got to stop them,” he said. “If you want to come for me and Jeremy, that’s up to you, but don’t pick on staff who can’t defend themselves.”
Ms Malhotra said the unauthorised entry, by staff, into her office, constituted a serious breach of parliamentary privilege.
“The implications of this are extremely serious. This is a breach of parliamentary privilege and is a violation of the privacy, security, and confidentiality of a member of parliament’s office,” she told The Observer.
“Furthermore, my staff, including an intern, who have always been courteous and open, have felt harassed, intimidated and insecure, and decided, themselves, it would be best to not leave anyone alone in the office.”
However, Mr McDonnell said the office manager concerned had been checking if Ms Malhotra had moved out of the office (she quit as shadow chief treasury secretary last month, in protest at Mr Corbyn’s leadership).
“I have now got a member of staff — she’s a widow with daughters, this is her sole income — she’s now worried she’s going to lose her job and face prosecution, because it’s described as a break-in. That’s just so distressing, it’s unacceptable. This has obviously been an error,” he said.
But with the rift between the leadership and the party’s MPs showing no signs of ending, Mr McDonnell acknowledged there would have to be mediation.
“What we should do is do some mediated negotiations between the Parliamentary Labour Party, the NEC (national executive committee), and others, so we use the leadership contest to discuss the issues, but, also, we use it to help heal some of the wounds and bring it together,” he said.
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