Neil Coyle has gone to war with his own party after launching a stinging attack on bullies and online ‘trolls’ within Labour.
The Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP said he will stand up to “Tory Islamophobia, Lib Dem hypocrisy or antisemitism and bullying and the need to tackle it within Labour”, and has vowed he will not be silenced by his critics.
His comments come after a row over Elephant and Castle regeneration plans was stoked by new claims that hard-left Momentum supporters are ‘bullying’ centrists within the party.
A defiant Coyle said: “In three years as your MP I have sadly witnessed an explosion in online abuse and bullying as well as pockets of problems within the Labour Party itself.
“I will always stand up against racists and bullies wherever they appear.
“I hope I have shown, in the last three years, that I am prepared to stand up to my own Party if I think it is moving in the wrong direction, including voting against the whip if it is in local people’s interests.
“When Jo Cox and I wrote an article for the Guardian together we got a lot of online abuse.
“Shockingly, many men called her office to abuse her – and not one called me.
“Women politicians get far more abuse by email and online and social media platforms do not do enough to tackle this phenomenon.
“When I recently tweeted about bullying, my phone went into meltdown due to the ‘pile-on’ organised by left-wing commentators.
“I can ignore much of this as it is not from constituents – who will always be my priority.
“But it meant losing my phone for a day as the notifications prevented me from using it.
“This could prevent me communicating with people with urgent casework, or even with my own family.
“The trolls who commit this kind of organised harassment should grow up.
“I will not be silenced by any amount of trolling and will continue to speak out, whether against Tory Islamophobia, Lib Dem hypocrisy, or antisemitism and bullying and the need to tackle it within Labour.
“I know from my correspondence and discussions with constituents that I speak for the majority of local people and will continue to do so.”
Coyle’s allegations come in the wake of Southwark Council’s planning committee’s controversial approval of Delancey’s regeneration plans for the Elephant and Castle shopping centre on July 3, with a four-to-three margin with one abstention.
After Faraday Ward passed a motion rejecting the council’s decision and asking Sadiq Khan to step in to force the developers to improve their offer, Coyle took to twitter to accuse certain Labour councillors and online commentators of bullying councillors who had greenlit the plans.
In a strongly worded Tweet he wrote: “What a sad bunch of bullies. Shameful treatment of a white, working class woman Cllr. Understand planning, grow up, and stop your bullying.”
It was widely understood he was referring to Cllr Lorraine Lauder MBE, co-chair of Southwark’s planning committee, and ward councillor for Faraday, who voted in favour of the scheme while her fellow ward councillors are strongly opposed.
What a sad bunch of bullies. Shameful treatment of a white, working class woman cllr. Understand Planning, grow up, and stop your bullying. https://t.co/0W3X90PZYf
— Neil Coyle (@coyleneil) July 5, 2018
Critics of the scheme want the Greater London Authority to push the developers to increase the amount of social housing and do more to protect its bingo and bowling facilities.
The motion has now been passed by Labour-run North Walworth, Faraday and Chaucer wards.
And, according to Southwark Momentum, the entire Camberwell and Peckham constituency branch of the party voted in favour the motion at last week’s AGM, with just two abstentions, and Dulwich and West Norwood Labour have also unanimously backed the motion.
In July 2017, the News reported 300 black and ethnic minority Labour Party members signed an open letter to ‘raise concerns’ about the deselection of Faraday Ward councillor Samantha Jury-Dada, a young, black, and LGBT woman.
Jury-Dada lost by just one vote to Jack Buck, who is now a councillor in the ward and vocal in his opposition to Delancey’s plans.
“I was hesitant because I did not want to endure another four years of the way I was being treated in my branch, despite numerous complaints,” she tweeted to her followers at the time.
Chris Bright, a spokesperson for Southwark Momentum, said he felt the wording in Coyle’s original tweet had been ‘unwise’, arguing: “Opposing a planning decision isn’t bullying’.
He told the News that although he could not comment on specific allegations, in general attacks on the Southwark group were ‘unfounded’, and based on political disagreements.
“There is obviously a right-wing press agenda to paint people on the left as hectoring and bullying,” he said.
“There is not much evidence of this in the group. Momentum are mostly people who knit their own yoghurt, so this stereotype bears no relation to reality.”
He says although no more than five councillors are Momentum members, several more are ‘generally aligned’ with the group’s principles and more are ‘shifting in that direction.’
“Now people are saying we can win elections on the left, and feel they can be more open with their leanings.
“There is a lot more opposition to the Elephant and Castle decision now than there would have been five years ago, as councillors feel more empowered to speak out.”
Last week a Labour spokesperson said it was the party’s policy not discuss whether or not allegations of bullying were received.