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Labour Shadow Minister Wants Labour MPs To Stop Talking About Party Splits

"Sometimes it's just like c'mon. Let's act like grownups who want to win," Clive Lewis told BuzzFeed News.

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A Labour shadow minister wants his colleagues to stop talking to the media about divisions within the party because he thinks it's distracting from upcoming local and mayoral elections.

The intervention from Clive Lewis, the shadow energy minister, came after a number of Labour MPs publicly said they were outraged by a revelation that supporters of Momentum, the grassroots campaigning group backing Jeremy Corbyn, were planning a picket outside a fundraiser for a Labour candidate in a local London election.

A spokesperson for Momentum said the picket was not supported by the national organization.

Former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna accused the Momentum supporters of "doing the Tories' dirty work for them."

Agree. It's madness! Why do the Tories dirty work for them?..against London's prospective first Nigerian GLA member! https://t.co/wmwFQxmhbp

But Lewis, an ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has said that the picket of a Labour candidate by party supporters was a "non-story" and only received more attention because MPs started tweeting about it – and he wants them to stop.

"I'm afraid to say there are too many Labour MPs prepared to get agitated about very little, if I'm honest," Lewis told BuzzFeed News, adding that the party's MPs should be focusing on campaigning for the party.

He said: "I don't think anyone in their right mind, with local elections coming up, wants to focus on a handful of people, picketing outside another person's fundraiser. To my mind, it's a non-story."

Lewis said that it was appropriate for MPs to intervene when Labour members were being racist or anti-Semitic but said his colleagues should behave like adults.

"If people do things that are racist, sexist, homophobic or anti-Semitic," he said, "Throw the book at them and I'll be the first to do so. But if we're talking about small scale, 'He called me this. He said this. He said that'. Stop it.

"Sometimes you feel like a dinner lady between kids... Let's act like grownups who want to win."

The shadow minister is speaking at a Momentum-hosted event on Saturday night for Labour activists who are campaigning for Sadiq Khan this weekend. Although he said he doesn't want Labour supporters out picketing next week, he wouldn't mention it tomorrow night because it would distract from the election.

"Everyone needs to focus on winning in May," he said. "If those planning to picket are actually Labour members then they should be using that time to campaign for a Labour victory in May."

"To be quite frank - given the scale and savagery of this government's cuts, its economic mismanagement, the impending local elections and EU referendum - this story feels like yet another distracting sideshow barely worthy of making the national news.

"When seen in that light you have to wonder who actually benefits from giving these rather feeble stories, media prominence. Certainly not the Labour Party."

Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

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