Jeremy Corbyn’s moment in the sun did not last very long.
Just hours after delivering arguably his best ever PMQs performance, people from his campaign team leaked a list of 13 Labour MPs who they claim have abused him and his supporters, which looks like pulling the party even further apart.
The briefing, which became public on Wednesday evening before Corbyn went head-to-head with Owen Smith for Sky News, denounces a handful of high-profile MPs. The list included Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, and MPs Jess Phillips, Tristram Hunt, and Neil Kinnock.
Unsurprisingly, the list exacerbated tensions between Corbyn and MPs who have been critical of his leadership. An MP who was named on the list told the New Statesman: “With one breath Jeremy calls for unity and for the party to come together and with the next they publish this anonymous hit-list. I think members will be really dismayed.”
The 13 MPs named were Tom Watson, Jess Phillips, Tristram Hunt, John Woodcock, Stephen Kinnock, Ian Austin, Neil Coyle, Ben Bradshaw, Frank Field, Anna Turley, Jamie Reed, Karl Turner, and Tom Blenkinsop.
It is not just Corbyn’s critics who have been ruffled, though. A close ally of the Labour leader said the list was the “height of incompetence” and served to undo all the good work Corbyn had done to unite the Labour benches on the issue of grammar schools.
“This has caused dismay and anger among Jeremy’s supporters in Westminster. It is pound shop Malcolm Tucker stuff,” they told the New Statesman. On a day when Jeremy united the Labour benches over grammar schools this just gives the Tories an excuse to change the subject and point the disunity finger at Labour. It is the height of incompetence from the leadership campaign media operation.”
Corbyn’s camp has attempted to play down the list. His sources suggested it was accidentally leaked by a junior member of his team and was not intended to be used officially. This is despite Corbyn himself appearing to defend it being published during his Sky debate with Smith. “There was information put out there, which is statements made by colleagues on the record and is all out there in the public domain,” he told moderator Faisal Islam.
This new row does not look like it is going away any time soon.
John Woodcock, the Barrow-in-Furness MP who was one of the 13 names on the list, tweeted: “Junior member of campaign team” — oldest trick in book. Shabby and deliberately targets colleagues for more abuse”.
Bermondsey MP Neil Coyle, also named, plans to launch legal action against Corbyn.“If I receive a written apology from the leader and if this statement, this ridiculous, petty, student politics list is retracted, that would help.
“But I will still be talking to a lawyer tomorrow. This is defamation. I’ve been accused of abuse. That is completely unacceptable and it’s so unprofessional.”
Asked whether he intended to sue Corbyn, he replied: “Yes, and it would be the leader, not the party, because this has been issued apparently by someone in his campaign team.”
The last 24 hours have been a tale of two extremes for the Islington North MP. Just hours before this explosive list was published, Corbyn had the Labour benches cheering and rallying behind him as he impressively unpicked Theresa May’s plans for new grammar schools.
The result of the party’s leadership contest will be announced at the Labour conference in Liverpool next week. All eyes will be on Merseyside with the party now seemingly on the brink of breaking point.
Business Insider has contacted MPs named on the “hit-list” and will update this story when we learn more.
NOW WATCH: The only person who was right about the general election tells us what threw off all the Brexit polls
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.