Jeremy Corbyn has given his full backing to Stop The War's "vital, democratic" campaign and is set to defy his Labour critics by going ahead with a plan to attend its fundraiser this week.
The Labour leader will ‘of course’ be going to the Christmas event, one senior ally told HuffPost UK, because he wanted to show his support for a 'legitimate and popular campaigning organisation'.
His determination to attend is a direct riposte to former Shadow Cabinet minister Tristram Hunt, who on Sunday warned that Mr Corbyn should ‘step back’ from the ‘disreputable’ anti-war group.
Labour MPs have claimed Stop the War was part of a recent demonstration outside Labour HQ and is targeting those who voted to back bombing of ISIL in Syria.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn told HuffPost UK: "The anti-war movement has been a vital, democratic campaign, which organised the biggest demonstrations in British history and has repeatedly called it right over 14 years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East.
"Jeremy Corbyn rejects any form of abuse in politics from any quarter. But he will not accept attempts to portray campaigning, lobbying and protest as somehow beyond the pale. In fact it's at the heart of democracy."
In a further move, it is understood that the editor of the Stop the War’s website will now ‘get a grip’ on its postings, after it was forced to pull a controversial blog that compared terror group ISIL to the anti-fascist International Brigades of the 1930s.
The website had hosted a piece by activist Matt Carr which attacked Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn for voting to back RAF bombing in Syria. Shadow Cabinet minister and Corbyn supporter Lisa Nandy said the blog was ‘ridiculous’.
Mr Corbyn has come under fire from his own MPs for planning to attend the Stop the War Christmas fundraiser on Friday December 11.
The Labour leader stepped down as chairman of the organisation, which was formed in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks in the US to oppose military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, after he became Labour leader.
Stop The War has staged a number of protests in the constituencies of Labour MPs who backed action in Syria, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.
Mr Hunt told the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “I think they've been very irresponsible with their language and activities, picketing Labour Party headquarters when we're trying to fight for the Oldham by-election.
"I think they're a really disreputable organisation and I would hope Jeremy would step back and not go to their fundraiser.”
Senior party sources played down claims that Mr Corbyn was planning a ‘revenge reshuffle’ against Shadow Ministers like Mr Benn.
Some close to Mr Corbyn had worried about the Christmas fundraiser becoming a distraction for the leader but Mr Hunt’s intervention appeared to harden his determination to go.
Mr Corbyn would “definitely" go ahead with the Stop the War event, a senior source said.
Stop the War's convenor Lindsey German defended its actions, saying protests were a "democratic right, not bullying or intimidation”.
Asked about the Christmas fundraiser, Ms Nandy told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics: “I can’t tell him what he should do with his diary.
“We need to send a very clear message from the top of the party that we don’t tolerate deselection threats. If that means going to a Christmas dinner and making that point then that’s fine.”
However, Stop the War has come under criticism for blogposts on its website, including one that claimed that Paris had 'reaped the whirlwind' of 'violence' by the West in the Middle East.
It has been advised by senior Labour figures to reduce the amount of criticism it opens itself to by being more vigilant about items it hosts on its website. Referring to the latest 'International Brigades' blog, a source said: "This is the second time this has happened, it won't be happening again."
In the latest controversial blog, which appeared for a few hours on the Stop the War website before being withdrawn, Mr Carr said: “Benn does not even seem to realise that the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign..
“…except that the international jihad takes the form of solidarity with oppressed Muslims, rather than the working class or the socialist revolution.”
Ms Nandy said: “I thought it was extraordinary…It was ridiculous and obviously shouldn’t have been made, it was one of the sillier things I’ve seen in the last few weeks”.
As anti-war campaigners pressed their case, SNP leader Alex Salmond claimed that ‘not one’ of the seven ISIL plots foiled in the UK in the past year had been ‘directed from Syria’.
Meanwhile, deputy leader Tom Watson clarified his own remarks about alleged intimidation of pro-bombing MP Stella Creasy, stating that he supported party members’ right to demonstrate outside her office, as long as her staff were not intimidated.
Stop the War issued a statement tonight: "Tristram Hunt’s attack on Stop the War Coalition is unfounded and unjustified. We did not picket Labour Party offices, we have unequivocally condemned the terrible massacre in Paris, and we do not take a view on who should hold which office in the Labour Party.
"We do note, however, that unlike Mr Hunt we take the same view of the Syrian War as the Leader of the Labour Party and the great majority of Labour MPs and members. We look forward to celebrating that fact with Jeremy this week.
"Mr Hunt has been wrong about all the wars Britain has fought this century. He is entitled to his errors, but Stop the War and others are entitled to peacefully protest against them, and we shall continue to do so."