SHAFAQNA – Jeremy Corbyn has defied his critics in the Labour Party by turning out at a fundraising dinner for the left-wing Stop the War coalition.
Labour MPs and party activists had called on their leader to give the event a miss despite his 14-year association with Stop the War, including four years as its chairman.
Opponents say that Stop the War goes further than simple opposition to British military intervention in the Syrian civil war and other conflicts and is run by far-left ideologues who are “anti-West”. But Andrew Murray, the chairman of Stop the War, described criticism of Mr Corbyn’s decision to attend the dinner as “absurd”. He told diners: “Stop the War has faced a hurricane of malicious attacks in recent weeks, largely as a proxy means of trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.”
Mr Corbyn is expected to give a speech saying that the group was a “vital force” and “one of the most important democratic campaigns of modern times”, which had “brought hundreds of thousands of people” to demonstrations, according to the BBC.
The Labour leader’s presence boosts the campaigning group founded after the terrorist attacks on New York in 2001, whose influence peaked just before the start of the 2003 Iraq war. There were 150 tickets on sale for the dinner, at £50 each. It sold out earlier in the week, and anyone calling in the hope of a cancellation was warned that there were 30 names on a waiting list.
Emma Reynolds, who served as a shadow minister under Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman, told the BBC that Stop the War was “more anti-West than anti-war”.
“I don’t think these are views that are based on the values of internationalism solidarity of the Labour Party, and I hope my party leader will distance himself from this organisation and pull out of the dinner.”
An open letter signed by more than 400 Labour Party members had accused Stop the War of “all-but absolving dictators and terrorists of their butchery”.
The last time a front-rank politician was prepared to be publicly linked with Stop the War was when it organised the huge demonstration against the Iraq War in February 2003, which included a rally where speakers included the then Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy.
Since then, leading politicians have avoided being associated with it. Stop the War’s current chairman, Andrew Murray, is a communist and its convenor, Lindsey German, was a full-time organiser of the Socialist Workers Party.
Mr Corbyn was the group’s chairman for four years, when he was a comparatively isolated figure on the Labour left, but quit when he was unexpectedly elected party leader.
Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP, is a former patron but severed her link with the group last month, saying that – despite her continued opposition to bombing in Syria – she was disturbed by some of the positions Stop the War has adopted.
Two blogs posted on the group’s website proved particularly controversial. One, commenting on the recent terrorist killings in Paris, said that France had “reaped the whirlwind” of its support for military intervention in Syria. Another likened jihadists to the international brigades who fought against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
Both blogs have been removed from their website. Mr Murray said that posting had been a mistake and they did not represent the views of Stop the War.
Writing in the Independent, the veteran anti-war protester Tariq Ali alleged that attacks on the Stop the War coalition were a way of undermining Mr Corbyn.