Jeremy Corbyn has pulled out of a scheduled appearance at the annual Stop the War coalition conference, which would have been his final as chairman of the group. The Labour leader has been a prominent member of the campaign group almost since its inception and was expected to deliver a speech at the meeting on 19 September.
The Stop the War coalition was founded in September 2001 to campaign against what it believes to be unjust wars. It has opposed the so-called "War on Terror" by western nations, with high profiling campaigning against the second Iraq war and the invasion of Afghanistan. The demonstration it helped organise against the second Iraq war in London on 15 February 2003 is claimed to be the largest in British history.
A spokesman for Corbyn, who won the Labour party leadership battle in a landslide victory a week ago, told the Guardian newspaper he could not attend because of his "busy schedule". "His diary is now obviously very busy and today he is preparing for Labour party conference," the spokesman said. "He has made a clear commitment that he will find time to attend an event with Stop the War in the future. He is still very much committed."
Corbyn's rugby controversy
The spokesman denied that the Labour leader was cancelling because of the burdens of his first week as leader, instead insisting Corbyn was using the time to prepare for the Labour Party conference later this month. The issue of whether the UK will commit further armed forces to the conflict in Syria is very high up the parliamentary agenda this autumn and will see heated debate.
Corbyn has spoken at many rallies held by the anti-war group since becoming a member in 2001. In lieu of appearing he has provided a statement to be read in his absence.
His decision not to attend the conference comes after he refused an invitation to the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup on 18 September. According to The Sun, Boris Johnson criticised Corbyn for not going to the rugby match to avoid singing the national anthem again.
The Sun quotes the Mayor of London saying the Labour leader is a "national joke", and that "It looks like he's snubbing the rugby in case he has to sing the anthem. Come on Jezza: Scrum down for England."
However, one of Corbyn's constituents revealed that the MP was watching rugby, because he was meeting with Islington residents about housing problems in his constituency.