Jeremy Corbyn is managing the Labour Party in a similar way to how Mike Ashley runs Sports Direct, Owen Smith has said.
The Labour leadership candidate made the comments on Sky News after Corbyn appeared to threaten MPs who did not support him with deselection before the 2020 election.
“It’s not kinder and gentler is it, if you’re the boss of and organisation and the workers are unhappy, to threaten to give hem the sack, it’s the sort of thing you might see at Sports Direct. It’s not what you should be expecting at the Labour Party,” Smith said.
Today a Commons committee found Sports Direct was subjecting workers to “appalling” conditions where some aren’t paid the national minimum wage and others claim they were offered contracts in exchange for sexual favours. The retailer’s employees are treated like “commodities” instead of human beings and it operates more like a “Victorian workhouse” than a high street chain. And staff were punished for taking short breaks to drink water or for being off sick.
During his leadership campaign launch yesterday, Corbyn confirmed that all Labour MPs would face re-selection when new parliamentary boundaries - reducing the number of seats from 650 to 600 - come into force in 2018.
The move would pave the way for his supporters in the party’s grassroots to push out critics by replacing them as Labour candidates.
Smith told Sky something had gone "badly wrong" under Corbyn's leadership of the party.
"We have seen intolerance in the party, abuse in the Labour party that we have never seen before. Women in Labour have found themselves subject to awful misogynistic abuse, some of our Jewish MPs have been subject to anti-Semitic abuse, some of our Asian MPs have been subject to abuse. None of that can be accepted in the Labour party – we are the party of tolerance and equality and it’s deeply saddening for all of us to see this."
Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning Corbyn’s comments had driven more of a wedge between rival Labour factions.
“One of the responsibilities of leadership is actually to bring people together, not to set people against each other. I think it is very unfortunate and another example of why really we need a new leadership rather than Jeremy Corbyn,” she said.
Corbyn, who is fighting former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith to hang on to the party’s top job, is favourite to win the postal ballot of Labour’s members - whose ranks he said had swelled to more than 500,000 - as well as the 183,000 people who signed up this week as registered supporters and the affiliated supporters in the unions.
Corbyn has been accused of considering calling the father of a senior Labour MP in an attempt to “bully” the politician into silence.
Labour whip Conor McGinn made the extraordinary claim that the party leader had considered using his father in an attempt to “apply pressure” on him following public criticism of Corbyn.
Corbyn’s office dismissed the claims as “untrue” but St Helens North MP McGinn accused the party leader of hypocrisy for talking about a “kinder, gentler politics” when “he had proposed using my family against me”.