More than 140 Labour Party members have signed an open letter criticising MP Neil Coyle for “attacking” their leader in a national newspaper.
The Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn in a recent Mail on Sunday article sparked outrage among Labour members who decided to write him an open letter – and make it public.
Mr Coyle, re-elected during the snap election on June 8, said he “won’t be a cheerleader for Corbyn” in the article which also featured on the MailOnline website – but acknowledged that “Corbyn does indeed deserve credit for running a much smoother campaign than expected”.
“Labour still went down to our third successive general election defeat,” he said in the article.
“Anyone claiming we ‘won’ is frankly being ridiculous.”
“Many of Corbyn’s critics now applaud him, but most Labour MPs and campaigners know that his terrible ratings meant he did not even appear on our election leaflets,” he added.
Will Yong, campaigns officer for South Camberwell Branch Labour Party (BLP) and Camberwell and Peckham Constituency Labour Party (CLP), said he decided to write the open letter and gather signatures because “to go public was the only way to send a message”.
“It was absolutely infuriating – many of us know he has been against the leadership in a very public way and coming straight after what was a really heartening and satisfying election result, which saw so many people spare their time to go out and campaign for him and sometimes against their personal instinct,” said the 39-year-old.
“We flooded into Bermondsey and Old Southwark, put our misgivings aside, and campaigned hard for him and increased his majority and to see this in the MailOnline of all places was a real kick in the teeth.”
The open letter, which was sent to the CLP chairs in Bermondsey and Old Southwark and Camberwell and Peckham, as well as Harriet Harman MP, attracted 145 signatures.
In the letter, they called on Mr Coyle to support Jeremy Corbyn “just as we supported you”. “Labour MPs gave Corbyn a standing ovation,” they said in the letter.
“Those who doubted him have changed their mind.
“We are on course to win an early election. But you choose to continue attacking our leader, and in the most right-wing newspaper in Britain. Why?
“We hope to see a more constructive attitude from you in the future, to help elect the Labour government that the country so desperately needs.”
In response, Mr Coyle told the News he had not been sent a copy of the letter and that it was “full of inaccuracies”.
“There are more than 2,000 members in Bermondsey and Old Southwark alone – and over 6,000 members in Southwark,” he said.
“Just 37 local members signed up to this letter – a tiny fraction of my local party, who remain very supportive, active and effective.
“I am unsure who is coordinating it but I have received apologies from three of my local members who signed it as they believed it would be private.
“The irony is not lost on them that you don’t try and publicly criticise someone whilst asking them not to publicly criticise someone else.”
Mr Coyle said he was “incredibly grateful” to the campaigners who supported both him and the Labour Party in the run up to the election.
“Whilst I am concerned that some members and supporters felt strongly about the article, my piece for the Mail on Sunday is very similar to the Corbyn’s Shadow Foreign Secretary’s piece on the matter so I will see if she’s had a similar letter,” he added.
“I wrote in the Mail on Sunday because it is a pro-remain paper and, despite its editorial line, has an estimated two million Labour supporting readers.
“Mail-bashing is a pastime for some but we must work through all media to win votes to ensure this grubby Government and its vicious Brexit plans and ‘Neglexit’ attitude to domestic policies on education, housing, policing, incomes and the NHS is ended as soon as possible.
“My piece attacked the Tories and acknowledged Corbyn’s role in Labour doing better than expected.
“Anyone who missed that probably read the Mail’s comments rather than what I wrote, which is a shame.
“I agree that our campaign was positive and our policies would make a substantial difference to Southwark and elsewhere – if we win the next election.”