Sunderland MP clashes with Jeremy Corbyn over Julian Assange

Bridget Phillipson
Bridget Phillipson
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A Sunderland MP is among those to clash with Jeremy Corbyn over the fate of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.

Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Government to intervene to stop the Australian's extradition to the US, while shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also leapt to his defence.

His words were met with a backlash from all sides, with Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson among Labour MPs disagreeing with their leader and Ms Abbott.

She said on Twitter: "Assange is not the victim in all this. Those who run from justice should face the consequences.

"This is about the rule of law, not the politics of the accused."

Speaking in the Commons after Assange's arrest on Thursday, Ms Abbott had said he was in the "cross-hairs of the US administration" over his whistle-blowing activities.

File picture of Julian Assange

File picture of Julian Assange

She then appeared to play down rape and sexual assault allegations against Assange, during an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday morning, saying three times that the charges were never brought.

She said: "The allegations were made but the charges were never brought. And we all know what this is about - it's not correct charges, serious as they are, it is about the WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public."

When it was explained that charges could not be brought under Swedish law against a person in their absence, Ms Abbott said: "If the Swedish government wants to come forward with charges, I believe that Assange should face the criminal justice system."

Ms Phillipson was not the only politician to speak out in disagreement.

Minister for Women Vicky Atkins said: "Diane Abbott's dismissal of rape charges speaks volumes about Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.

"It's astonishing that the party which prides itself on fighting for women's rights is so willing to ignore allegations of sexual violence.

"Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott need to realise that not even their heroes are above the law."

Anna Soubry, who left the Tories to joint the Independent Group, tweeted: "Shame on you @HackneyAbbott your pal #Assange holed up in an Embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape & sexual assault. He's no hero & the failure of @jeremycorbyn & #DianeAbbott to stand by the women who have made those allegations is disgraceful."

Another member of the group, Angela Smith, a former Labour MP, said on Twitter: "Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party seems to think it can make judgements on claims of sexual misconduct. That's a matter for the courts. Its support of @assange beggars belief and undermines all those campaigning on the issue."

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips said: "The fact that Assange has evaded charges of sexual violence and skipped bail should be opposed by the Labour Party. I'm sure it is, I'd like to hear it."