A bitter blame game is raging inside Labour over suspicions that Emily Thornberry’s office was behind claims that Jeremy Corbyn was too ill to be Prime Minister.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary branded Mr Corbyn’s allies ‘snivelling cowards’ for suggesting her aide Damian McBride could be involved in leaking that civil servants thought the Labour leader was too frail for the top job.
Ms Thornberry, one of the front-runners to replace Mr Corbyn, also claimed the unfounded allegation was designed to undermine her.
Hitting back: Emily Thornberry said the leak was nothing to do with her office and branded Mr Corbyn’s allies ‘snivelling cowards’ over the matter
Ex-Gordon Brown aide Mr McBride earned the nickname ‘McPoison’ for his hostile briefings against the political enemies of the then Labour Prime Minister.
The Mail on Sunday understands the strained relationship between Mr Corbyn and Ms Thornberry lies behind the suspicions of the party leader’s friends.
Last month, Ms Thornberry – who normally deputises for the leader at Prime Minister’s Questions – was replaced by Corbyn favourite Rebecca Long-Bailey after publicly blaming Labour’s dismal European election performance on the party’s failure to clarify where it stands on a second Brexit referendum.
She is also understood to have clashed with Mr Corbyn at Shadow Cabinet meetings over the issue, with Labour insiders hinting she could be sacked in a forthcoming reshuffle.
Mr Corbyn’s allies also believe the briefings against him are part of a wider ideological battle over the party’s Brexit policy.
Denial: Damian McBride is said not to be behind the leaks
A source said: ‘Damian’s been keeping his head down in recent years but this feels like vintage-era McBride.’
But a spokesman for Ms Thornberry dismissed the allegation, saying: ‘Whichever snivelling, pathetic coward is briefing these lies to undermine Emily should be just as ashamed of themselves as the anonymous civil servants who briefed their lies about Jeremy’s health.’
Friends of Mr McBride described the accusation as ‘ludicrous, offensive and utterly untrue’.