A leading Jeremy Corbyn supporter who called the poppy appeal “racist” and “white supremacist” has been branded “juvenile” by a shadow minister.
Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani sparked controversy this week when he called for the Royal British Legion to be scrapped, claiming it did little to help homeless veterans.
In a statement to HuffPost UK, the Shadow Scotland Minister, Paul Sweeney, said he felt personally offended and plans to write to Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, about “repulsive views being promulgated at the fringes of our party”.
Sweeney is an ex-army reservist for the Scots 6 and lost a close friend in Afghanistan in 2013.
The Glasgow North East MP said Bastani’s comments, which come as the country prepares to mark the centenary of the First World War, were also an “affront” to ex-leaders’ military service and the party’s history battling the far-right.
The Royal British Legion (RBL) raises millions each year for veterans and their families and has widespread support.
In a video on his media organisation’s website, Bastani said many on the left viewed the remembrance appeal “a joke”, however, and added: “I think the poppy appeal is grotesque, it has a kind of triumphalist militarism to it. It’s racist, right, it’s white supremacist.”
Sweeney told HuffPost: “These juvenile views are as mistaken as they are abhorrent.
“They are an affront to the memory of Major Attlee, Lt Benn and Major Healey and wilfully ignore the Labour party’s proud history of standing up to fascism.
“But they are also offensive to me personally as someone who served their country in uniform and who lost a close friend in Afghanistan in 2013.
“I have been a vocal campaigner on behalf of the veterans who are being failed by Government. It is perverse that anyone would twist that injustice into a campaign against the very charities doing their best to right that wrong.”
Bastani also argued the RBL should be dissolved so more cash could be handed to veterans.
He later added: “I care about veterans. That’s why I think the Royal British Legion should be dissolved with it’s £300m of fixed assets redistributed to Britain’s 13,000 homeless ex-service personnel.”
Some, including Guardian writer Owen Jones, have defended Bastani against calls from some MPs, including John Mann, who say he should be thrown out of the Labour Party.
Jones said: “For what? If we’re going to keep Tony Blair in the party even though he’s paid millions by murderous dictatorships then I think we can probably find space for someone expressing an opinion.”