A defiant Jeremy Corbyn has made clear he will go ahead with an appearance at a fundraising event for the Stop the War coalition.
The Labour leader – who was the Stop the War’s chair prior to his election as party leader in September – has been facing calls to pull out of the dinner for the group described by critics in the party as “really disreputable”.
But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn made clear that he would ignore the demands.
“The anti-war movement has been a vital democratic campaign, which organised the biggest demonstrations in British history and has repeatedly called it right over 14 years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East,” the spokesman said. “Jeremy Corbyn rejects any form of abuse in politics from any quarter. But he will not accept attempts to portray campaigning lobbying and protest as somehow beyond the pale. In fact it’s at the heart of democracy.”
His comments are likely to inflame tensions within the party after last week’s Commons debate on Syria which saw 66 Labour MPs – including 21 frontbenchers – defy their leader’s wishes and vote for military action.
In the aftermath of the vote some MPs complained they were subjected to online abuse and threats of de-selection by pro-Corbyn supporters, with Stop the War among the most strident critics.
The group has demanded the sacking of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn after he rallied support for air strikes. It caused outrage with comments after the Paris terror attacks suggesting the city had “reaped the whirlwind” for Western actions in the Middle East and comparing jihadists to the International Brigade volunteers who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
Former shadow cabinet minister Tristram Hunt said Mr Corbyn should pull out of Friday’s fundraiser. But shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the leader’s position had been strengthened by Labour’s victory in the Oldham West and Royton by-election. Writing in The Observer, he said Mr Corbyn remained intent on transforming Labour into “something more akin to a mass social movement”, adding “there is no going back”.