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Byrne acts to protect staff after ‘appalling’ ‘intimidation’ by selection rival

Right-winger Lavelle and goons turned up to disrupt Byrne’s campaign event in Croxteth, but rally proceeded in public after reported threats to venue

Ian Byrne (with poppy) and a few of his supporters outside the Lobster pub in Croxteth

Liverpool’s West Derby MP, left-winger Ian Byrne, has spoken out on Twitter about the ‘appalling behaviour’ and ‘shameful intimidation’ that he and his supporters faced when he held a rally in the Croxteth area of the constituency. Byrne tweeted that he had blocked those involved, ‘including local politicians’, to protect his and his team’s safety and mental health:

While Byrne does not name those who turned up, I was there to film the event. The first to arrive, I went into the booked venue – the Lobster pub in the area – and asked where the event was taking place so I could set up to film. I was confronted by a large, apparently southern man and told that it was not taking place and Ian Byrne had been informed and we were not welcome, so left.

Arriving shortly afterwards, Byrne and his team knew nothing about it and went into the pub to see what was going on, but there was no progress and the meeting was then going to move to the sports centre next door. However – reportedly because of threats to the centre’s funding – that building was not available either, so it took place in the car park where Greater Manchester and Merseyside mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram spoke glowingly about Byrne’s achievements as West Derby’s MP and explained why they are backing him to remain Labour’s candidate.

Returning to the pub car park to collect cars, the pro-Byrne group was met with the sight of rival candidate – and Croxteth councillor – Anthony Lavelle, accompanied by a mix of gurning goons, plus smirking centrists in their frequent cap-and-cashmere ‘uniforms’.

The attempted intimidation also took place inside the pub. A woman from the Byrne group told me:

There were about ten lads who looked threatening who all walked with me through the bar and then sat around while I talked to the manager. He told me, ‘Change of plan, Anthony has been on and Ian’s been told – I left a message on the phone.’

One man stopped his car next to me with some of the same lads in to say, ‘By the way, Anthony is on his way down.’ It was all pretty bloody intimidating.

Shortly after Byrne’s group returned to the pub car park, Lavelle and co drifted off, presumably feeling they had achieved their aim.

I have been involved in Labour politics for a long time and have reported on scandalous actions by the Labour right across the country. But for a would-be candidate to turn up, with assorted minders, to disrupt a rival’s campaign event, while allegedly leaning on venues to change arrangements and refuse access at the last minute, was a new experience.

Anthony Lavelle has been shortlisted by Labour despite accusations last year by a young disabled woman that he had conducted a campaign of bullying, intimidation and even ‘concentration camp’ hate speech against her. He did not respond to my repeated journalistic requests for comment on the allegations then or since. He has not responded to text messages requesting comment on Byrne’s statement or others’ allegations of yesterday’s intimidation.

The news of the barring of Byrne from the venues was quickly briefed to the usual suspects in the hostile press. But in what will have been a blow to Lavelle, Liverpool FC supporters at yesterday’s Anfield match unfurled banners at the gamed showing their support for ‘Man of the People’ Byrne – the current MP of the Year for his work fighting hunger and poverty through ‘Fans Supporting Foodbanks’, his ‘Right to Food’ campaign and his community kitchens initiative.

Labour has been accused of extensive rigging and corruption in the selection process so far – so extensive that the party official originally appointed to oversee it refused to sign off on the results and was removed by Labour, with the London regional office installed in their place. Anthony Lavelle is a regional party staffer.

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