Owen Smith: Jeremy Corbyn has been complacent about condemning homophobia

Owen Smith has accused Jeremy Corbyn of being “complacent” about homophobia in the Labour Party.

Both Mr Corbyn and Mr Smith this week took part in live Q&As with PinkNews readers.

On Wednesday, Mr Corbyn defended his record after criticism from out Labour MP Angela Eagle, who accused him of failing to clamp down on abuse and homophobia towards her from his supporters.

Speaking to PinkNews today, Mr Smith accused the leader of being complacent on the issue.

Asked if he thought Mr Corbyn had done enough, he said: “I don’t. to be honest.

“I think Jeremy’s response to the charge that people have been abused – women in the Labour Party, Angela for her sexuality – has been quite often to say, ‘well I’ve been abused too, the best thing to do is to ignore it.’

“I don’t think that’s the best thing to do, especially if you’re the leader of the Labour Party.

The best thing to do is to address it,stating clearly and publicly that you’ve got zero tolerance for it, the party has zero tolerance for it and you make sure you stamp it out.

“Anybody found guilty of that sort of abuse in the Labour Party should be kicked out.

I think he has been complacent about misogyny, about anti-Semitism, about homophobic abuse in the party. I don’t think he’s been strong enough in speaking about those things and doing something about it. It’s not enough to say ‘ignore it’, you’ve got to address it. You’ve got to deal with it.”

He added: “We have to be honest, there is a rising tide of hate speak and hate crime of all sorts – and homophobia, transphobia and biphobia are all featured within that and there are rising incidents of those things.”

Speaking to PinkNews, Mr Corbyn said he understood Ms Eagle had received homophobic abuse, and strongly condemned it.

He said: “Angela has suffered homophobic abuse which is absolutely and totally wrong and I support her in standing up against that.

“If anyone who claims to be a supporter of mine is making homophobic remarks or homophobic abuse then they are wrong.”

Mr Corbyn added: “If anyone is acting in a homophobic way in the Labour Party, they are wrong. They will have no support from me whatsoever in doing that. I absolutely condemn it and they should be investigated for their behaviour.

“If they are found to have made homophobic acts or made homophobic comments then there are sanctions open to them for the National Executive to take.

“That’s why I was concerned about reports I received over the issue of anti-Semitism and racism in the party. and I therefore appointed Shami Chakrabati to undertake an inquiry into it which she did.

“I asked her to do it in good time and she did it in two months, which is a very short time for such a report – but I felt that we had to get on the front foot and she produced a very good report, which suggests there has to be a more transparent process within the party for dealing with these allegations.”

Ms Eagle previously accused Mr Corbyn of failing to defend her from abuse.

She said: “At the AGM I was referred to disparagingly as ‘Angie the dyke’ and there were homophobic gestures made to one LGBT member who felt very intimidated by this.

“I am astonished at the lack of condemnation of this behaviour coming from the leader’s office… Jeremy keeps telling us that he is standing for a kinder, gentler politics, but that is rendered meaningless when he fails to protect people who have witnessed or been subjected to bigotry and intimidation from having their anonymous testimony challenged in public prior to an internal investigation taking place.

“The truth is that [Corbyn] doesn’t want to discourage his most ardent fans.”

She added: “I am a lesbian, I have been open about it and have never had a problem in Wallasey about it up until now.

“No one who really cared about LGBT rights would sit back and allow this behaviour to continue without condemning it.

“Personally, I’ll be voting for Owen Smith and I encourage everyone else to do so too. Because I do not think such bigotry would flourish under him.”

She added: “We are all fed up of the misogyny, the homophobia, and the threats of violence. The politics of bullying and intimidation should have no place in the Labour party.”