South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has hit back at her critics within a South Tyneside group set up to support the continued Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
Dozens of people turned out to a recent meeting at the Harton & Westoe Miners Welfare, in South Shields, to support Mr Corbyn after many of his own party’s MPs took a vote of no confidence against him.
The meeting was organised by the Harton & Westoe Miners Banner Group, who recently banned Mrs Lewell-Buck from joining them at the Durham Miners Gala.
That move was taken after she resigned from her post as shadow minister for communities and local government during the internal strife within Labour.
The Banner Group aims to organise a rally and is urging borough residents to join the Labour party and support Mr Corbyn.
Group secretary John Watson said: “We’re not prepared to accept that these MPs won’t listen to the party members who wanted to vote Jeremy Corbyn in as Labour party leader, and there’s been a tsunami of support for him ever since the Parliamentary party has tried to push him out.
“These so-called representatives of the people have no regard for that message or for democracy, and that’s the message we want to get across.
“They’ve got to get behind the leader of the Labour party. This leadership election shouldn’t be taking place.
“Jeremy Corbyn had 60% of the vote from Labour party members – that’s the biggest mandate a Labour leader has ever had.
“It’s not Jeremy Corbyn who is breaking up the Labour party – it’s them. He’s trying to bring it together.”
Mr Watson also had a message for Mrs Lewell-Buck.
He said: “Whilst she says she abstained from the vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, she resigned from her position in the Shadow Cabinet and by that very fact she was expressing her vote of no confidence towards him.
“She needs to come back into the fold and support Jeremy Corbyn and she needs to get the opinions of the constituents of the town she represents.
“She needs to go into her constituency and follow the wishes of her constituents. I firmly believe that if the people of this town took a vote, the majority would be in support of Jeremy Corbyn and she needs to recognise that.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck took to Twitter to talk about the meeting.
She posted a picture of a poster advertising it, which stated a point of discussion as: “Mandatory re-selection of Labour MPs by Labour Party members.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck told the Gazette: “I’ve never had an invite to this meeting, and I don’t even recall the last time I spoke to John Watson face-to-face, it might have even been at last year’s Miners Gala which was more than 12 months ago.
“I was certainly not invited to any meeting and I would have gone if I was invited.
“But now that I’ve heard about the things that were being said about me and the level of hatred towards me, I wouldn’t go, and if they’re doing that in Jeremy’s name he’d be abhorred because that’s not the kind of politics he wants either.
“I know a lot of the people at that meeting would have been reasonable but some of them, the language they were using was derogatory and as long as I’ve been a member of this party, I’ve never known this level of abuse.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck also responded to Mr Watson’s comments about her standing down from her Shadow Cabinet position.
She said: “I abstained from the vote because it wasn’t constitutionally binding and it was a sideshow. It had no weight whatsoever in our party. There were so few people left by the time I stepped down that if I’d stayed it would have sent the message that I was 110% behind Corbyn and his leadership and I wasn’t and I had to be true to myself.
“I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror every day and I have to be true to what I believe in.
“If I’d stayed and someone had asked me if I thought he was going to win in the next General Election, I would have had to say no, and people would have thought I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. I did what I thought was the right thing to do.”
Mr Watson said that the meeting was public and that Mrs Lewell-Buck was welcome to attend despite not receiving a personal invitation.
He said: “Does she not understand what a public meeting is? It was open to everybody, it’s not a private meeting, and I thought that was quite self-explanatory.
“She shouldn’t listen to hear-say because no derogatory language was used against her. People just spoke he truth that she’s nailed her colours to the mast by supporting Owen Smith and not supporting Jeremy Corbyn, so obviously she’s going to get criticism from Corbyn supporters.
“The criticism we’re giving her is the same as the criticism she’s giving Jeremy Corbyn.
“This leadership election shouldn’t even be taking place because he was elected by the majority of members and there’s been no call for a re-selection of leadership other than from the Parliamentary party.
“Lots of people at that meeting, if they weren’t already, have agreed to join the Labour party to add to the support of Corbyn.
“She’s backing the wrong horse and she needs to listen to what the people in her constituency want.
“She has no right to undermine our support and what we believe in. We didn’t say anything against her meeting for Owen Smith.
“I’m going to send a personal invitation out to her to have a debate at a neutral venue on an agreeable date and we’ll open it to the public so we can debate our differences on the leadership election in public.
“I don’t want this to turn into a personal feud between our organisation and her, we’re supporting our candidate and she’s supporting hers.”
The next meeting in support of Jeremy Corbyn will be held at Ocean Road Community Centre, in South Shields, on Tuesday, August 16, at 6.45pm.