Former Labour leadership hopeful Angela Eagle has accused Jeremy Corbyn of tolerating homophobia among his supporters following an incident in which she was allegedly referred to as "Angie the dyke" at a meeting of her local party, and a whistleblower was allegedly singled out at a public meeting.
Seventeen members of Eagle's local Wallasey constituency Labour party, which is increasingly split between supporters of the local MP and backers of Corbyn, have complained to the central Labour party about homophobic abuse of Eagle and other acts of alleged intimidation at the branch meeting.
In response the central Labour party suspended Wallasey CLP, only for local pro-Corbyn activist Paul Davies to organise an unofficial CLP meeting to strongly dispute the allegations.
"Jeremy keeps telling us that he is standing for a kinder, gentler politics, but that is rendered meaningless when he fails to protect people who have witnessed or been subjected to bigotry and intimidation from having their anonymous testimony challenged in public prior to an internal investigation taking place," Eagle, who stepped aside from the Labour leadership contest in favour of Owen Smith, told BuzzFeed News.
"The truth is that [Corbyn] doesn't want to discourage his most ardent fans," she added, referring to local Labour campaigners who she believes were involved in the abuse. The former shadow business secretary has previously called on Corbyn to "get control" of his supporters after her constituency office was attacked.
Eagle said her sexuality had never previously been an issue in local politics until she stood against Corbyn: "I am a lesbian, I have been open about it and have never had a problem in Wallasey about it up until now.
"No one who really cared about LGBT rights would sit back and allow this behaviour to continue without condemning it. Personally, I'll be voting for Owen Smith and I encourage everyone else to do so too. Because I do not think such bigotry would flourish under him."
Eagle missed the meeting of her constituency party where the alleged abuse took place because she had taken her sister – fellow Labour MP Maria – to hospital to deal with a broken foot. But, referring to the formal complaint signed by 17 individuals, she claimed local LGBT activists were intimidated and this continued online.
"At the AGM I was referred to disparagingly as 'Angie the dyke' and there were homophobic gestures made to one LGBT member who felt very intimidated by this," she said.
"It is intolerable that LGBT delegates at a Labour party meeting in the 21st century should be subjected to this and it is outrageous that another delegate attended a meeting of the Labour party using homophobic abuse and made limp-wristed gestures to gay attendees condoned by the giggles of his faction. What is even worse is that the victims should them be accused of lying and hounded on social media and in unofficial meetings."
Eagle also criticised Corbyn's reluctance to publicly intervene in the matter, citing other occasions where he has commented on local party issues: "I am astonished at the lack of condemnation of this behaviour coming from the leader's office."
A spokesperson for Corbyn insisted the Labour leader condemned all abuse and said he recently launched a code of conduct for Labour members. "Anyone with evidence of abuse or threats should inform both the police and Jeremy," they said, "and he will personally ensure it is properly investigated by the party."
Eagle criticised Davies, a vice chair of the local Labour party and one of her leading local opponents, for organising the unofficial constituency meeting – attended by hundreds of people – to dispute the accusations of bullying and homophobia.
She said this put undue pressure on witnesses: "I am so saddened and disappointed that Mr Davies sought to challenge in public the private testimony of whistleblowers. If this was happening in a workplace, the unions – for which I worked for many years – Jeremy, myself, the whole Labour movement would be aghast."
"Whistleblowers have rights to anonymity and for their evidence to be considered in private as part of due process. The union and Labour movement would be quick to label the tactics on display as bullying and intimidation and seek to protect those brave whistleblowers. Indeed we have done so many times together over the years."
In response Davies insisted the original accusations were smears and suggested BuzzFeed could supervise a test to prove it.
"Someone is lying about what happened at our Labour party meetings and I challenge Angela to join me in taking a lie detector test and then we can resolve the matter," he said.
Eagle said she was increasingly exasperated by the abusive tone of debate in the Labour party: "For weeks now, Jeremy has sat back silently as this has gone on. This is precisely the kind of behaviour that has led to the Labour party finding itself in crisis. It has tarnished the party's reputation.
"It's time for him to now to rein in those that have gone too far. It is not too late to save the Labour party, but every day that his indifference continues, it makes it harder for us to come together as a strong, united Labour party capable of taking on and beating this awful Tory government and healing our nation."
She added: "We are all fed up of the misogyny, the homophobia, and the threats of violence. The politics of bullying and intimidation should have no place in the Labour party."
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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