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Friday, December 11, 2015

Can Corbyn jettison his baggage?

The Times reports that Jeremy Corbyn is coming under increasing pressure to sever all links with the Stop the War Coalition following the decision of Caroline Lucas to do precisely that last week. The latest revelation is that Corbyn's constituency office was in the same building as the peace group’s workplace:

The revelation yesterday compounded moderate Labour MPs’ concerns about the “toxic” relationship between the anti-war group and Mr Corbyn.

Labour parliamentarians have called on their leader to distance himself from the group after it posted online last month a blog headlined: “Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East.” Public outrage prompted the group to delete it.

At the weekend, the group came under fire again for comparing Isis jihadists to the International Brigades of volunteers in the 1930s.

Mr Corbyn and the group both have offices in the Durham Road resource centre near Finsbury Park in North London, owned by the Ethical Property Company. It is understood that the group moved in after Mr Corbyn.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, told The Times: “We’re seeing the closeness between Jeremy Corbyn and the Stop the War Coalition grow by the week.” A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “It’s an irrelevance. They are two offices in the same building, but they are in different units and are unconnected. I don’t see how it’s a factor in their relationship.”

Mr Danczuk reiterated the call for Mr Corbyn to cancel his appearance at the organisation’s £50-a-head Christmas fundraiser tonight. However, his spokesman confirmed his intention to attend the event in a Turkish restaurant.

A member of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet urged him to rein in “intimidation and abuse” of MPs by Stop the War members. Michael Dugher, the shadow culture secretary, suggested Corbyn could use his role at the fundraising dinner today to deliver this message.

The big question is whether Jeremy Corbyn really can distance himself from a group who he considers forms his core support and which he has been instrumental in bringing to prominence. If he doesn't then expect a lot more sniping from the Parliamentary Labour Party, especially if, like Stephen Doughty in Cardiff South and Penarth, more of them are obliged to cancel constituency surgeries because of pickets against their stance on bombing Syria.
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