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LABOUR frontbencher Richard Burgon took on Jeremy Corbyn’s critics head on yesterday, accusing those who view Tony Blair as the moderate of living in a “topsy-turvy” world.
The shadow treasury minister argued that “demonising” Mr Corbyn for opposing the bombing of Syria while “pretending that Mr Blair and others “got it right in Iraq” was wrong.
Speaking on the BBC Sunday Politics programme, Mr Burgon said: “It’s part of an open democratic process and people shouldn’t be demonised for being part of it and Jeremy Corbyn certainly shouldn’t be demonised for being part of it.
“It’s a topsy-turvy world we’re in when attending Stop the War events is controversial. We’re still pretending that Tony Blair and others got it right in Iraq is seen as moderate. That’s a topsy-turvy world indeed.”
He said the attacks on Stop the War were “proxy attacks” on the Labour leader.
“When Charles Kennedy was speaking at the 2003 demonstration against the Iraq War which two million people attended, the Liberal Democrats and Charles Kennedy weren’t attacked for that and quite rightly so.”
And Blair’s own deputy prime minister John Prescott waded into the row yesterday, saying that some Labour members were continuing “a war that they lost.”
He branded those who had failed to accept Mr Corbyn’s leadership as “bitterites.”
But Mr Prescott did say the Labour leader should put party commitments ahead of “representing protest movements.”
Mr Corbyn refused to drop out of a Stop the War fundraiser last week despite sniping from rightwingers.
He did was not present at this weekend’s protests against Syrian airstrikes, but sent a message of solidarity to Stop the War chair Andrew Murray to be read out at the day’s rally.
It said: “The anti-war movement has been a vital force at the heart of our democracy.
“The attacks on it as somehow illegitimate are an attempt to close down democratic debate and campaigning.
“We in Parliament will hold this government to account for the conduct of their campaign — and step up the pressure to bring the conflict to an end.”
I’m here because the Stop the War Coalition has been absolutely right for the last 15 years. We should have never gone into an aggressive war in the Middle East. It’s brilliant that we’ve been able to keep this going and that we finally have a leader of the Labour Party who supports us and we support him.
I think it’s a fantastic show of unity today, despite the ridiculous controversy that’s been in the media. There will be more of these demonstrations and I urge more people to get involved.
I am here today because obviously I am opposing the bombing of Syria. I hope it stops. It’s related to that, but also in terms of more generally the leadership of the Labour Party and austerity.
The anti-war movement has been attacked by the media and by the political class and we have to defend our right to protest. If we don’t, then we have lost a big argument about international policy and it will weaken what has been recently a more hopeful situation for the left. It’s all connected.
University of East London
I’m the black students officer at my university and I felt I needed to come to represent my students. They are against the bombing.
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