Jeremy Corbyn defends 'hit list' after MP files a bullying complaint

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Jeremy Corbyn has defended a "hit list" drawn up by his team identifying Labour MPs for abusing him and his allies despite it sparking a formal bullying complaint.

Leading figures in the party were name-checked over their alleged behaviour since Mr Corbyn took the party's top job.

The leader's campaign team, which issued the press release, later distanced itself from the document saying it was a draft that had not been signed and was issued accidentally.

A complaint by an unnamed MP to the party's chief whip and general secretary said the action amounted to "harassment and bullying by the leader of the parliamentary party" and warned it was "not acceptable for Labour MPs to be deliberately victimised by the leader of our party in this way".

Furious MPs said the move was "shabby" and "trial by troll".

But during a televised leadership hustings on Sky News, Mr Corbyn dismissed the criticism.

He said: "There was information put out there which is statements that colleagues made on the record and it's all stuff that is out there on the public record."

Leadership rival Owen Smith attacked the Labour leader over the "divisive" dossier.

"That isn't unifying," he said. "That is deeply divisive and frankly, it's where you began the contest by talking about de-selection."

The campaign team has apologised to the party's deputy leader, Tom Watson, but it is not clear if that has been extended to the other MPs listed.

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Mr Corbyn's team reissued the document without the list of MPs and the "misdemeanours" they had been listed for.

Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, who was among those criticised, said he was "fuming".

He tweeted: "Desperate, trial by troll, victim-culture claims from an anonymous source backing Corbyn this eve. Fuming."

Another MP, who did not wish to be named, said members would be "dismayed" by the "hit list".

They said: "With one breath Jeremy calls for unity and for the party to come together and with the next they publish this hit-list. I think members will be really dismayed.

"For the record, none of the MPs they're targeting has ever talked about splitting the party. That's just not true. The only person who has threatened to split the party is (shadow chancellor) John McDonnell."

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The original release highlighted the behaviour of a number of other Labour MPs, including Jess Phillips for telling Mr Corbyn's ally Diane Abbott to "f*** off", John Woodcock for dismissing the party leader as a "f****** disaster" and Tristram Hunt for describing Labour as "in the s***".

Ian Austin, Ben Bradshaw, Frank Field, Anna Turley, Jamie Reed, Karl Turner, Stephen Kinnock and Tom Blenkinsop were all also identified by the campaign over claims about their behaviour.

Mr Watson, who was elected deputy by party members, had been picked out for calling the grassroots Corbyn campaign Momentum a "rabble".

Mr Woodcock tweeted: "'Junior member of campaign team' - oldest trick in book. Shabby and deliberately targets colleagues for more abuse."

A spokesman for Mr Watson said: "Tom Watson has received an apology from (press aide) James Mills on behalf of the junior press officer in Jeremy Corbyn's campaign team who released this list by mistake."

Mr Smith was attacked for appearing to describe the leader as a "lunatic" - something he denies - and accused of running a negative campaign.

The results of the leadership contest will be announced on Saturday September 24 as party members gather in Liverpool for Labour's annual conference.