Jeremy Corbyn has publicly taken down comments made by Tom Watson about bullying in the party. In a fiery interview with Sky News, the Labour leader said that “of course” he disagreed with his deputy’s words.
Corbyn went on to say that he would be meeting with Watson to discuss his comments in the “very near future”:
Jeremy Corbyn publicly rebukes Tom Watson for smearing the Labour Party grassroots as bullies. pic.twitter.com/O6dlEtxr80
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— Tory Fibs (@ToryFibs) February 22, 2019
In a video released on the day of the first resignations, Watson called for understanding of the reasons behind his ex-colleagues’ decisions.
The deputy leader spoke strongly of his support for Luciana Berger, and rightly condemned the abuse she has received. Watson said:
If someone like Luciana no longer believes there is a home for her in the Labour Party then many other colleagues will be asking themselves how they can stay.
I love this party. But sometimes I no longer recognise it.
“Of course I disagree with him”
He did, however, defend the party’s disciplinary process. And he said that he does not believe bullying exists on a “wide-scale”. Quizzed directly on his deputy’s comments, Corbyn said:
You’d have to ask Tom Watson that, and I’ll be speaking to Tom Watson in the very near future to talk to him about that.
When asked if he disagreed with Watson, Corbyn replied:
Well, of course I disagree with him, because I do not wish to be in a party where there’s any bullying or harassment.
It’s crucial that Labour, and the left in general, realise there’s a problem with antisemitism. It may be a small minority, but it’s still a minority too many. Blatant denial and using what-a-boutery to deflect the problem is definitely not the answer.
Using such a serious issue as a tool for political point-making is, however, also destructive. We need a sensible discussion, and more education on the nuances of antisemitism is absolutely key.
Corbyn is right to stick up for his party’s members. But he is also right to condemn any and all antisemitic views and abuse. At a time when the UK is at a massive crossroads, a strong Labour Party is crucial. And it’s now up to the party leader to step forward and make a positive case about the party’s direction. Let’s hope his deputy leader can follow suit.
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