Labour deputy leader Tom Watson demands suspension of Luciana Berger's constituency party amid anti-Semitism row
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has demanded the party suspends the local branch that was poised to hold a vote of no-confidence in MP Luciana Berger.
Mr Watson wrote to party general secretary Jennie Formby today calling on her to temporarily disband the Constituency Labour Party in Liverpool Wavetree.
It was confirmed today that two motions of no-confidence in Ms Berger that were due to be discussed next week have been pulled.
A source from leader Jeremy Corbyn’s office said not holding the votes was “the right thing to do” - after last night insisting “members have a right to hold their MPs to account”.
But Mr Watson said it was clear that Ms Berger - who has campaigned against anti-Semitism in the party - was being “bullied”.
“This behaviour by her local party is intolerable,” he said in a letter to Ms Formby this afternoon.
“The actions of her constituency are not only threating towards Luciana personally but are bringing our party into disrepute.”
“I am therefore requesting that you take the necessary steps to suspend Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party.”
In the Commons this afternoon Mr Watson said the Labour members planning a vote of no confidence in Ms Berger were "bringing disgrace" on the party.
One of those members, Kenneth Campbell, faces an investigation by the party after it emerged he branded Ms Berger a "disruptive Zionist" on Facebook.
A Labour leadership source said this afternoon after the no-confidence motions were pulled: “It's the right decision.”
Ms Berger said: "This was never just about me - sadly this is all too typical of the malign culture now bearing down on many hard-working MPs.
"The leadership have always maintained that they can’t intervene in local party matters. They appear to have proven today that they can step in when they are being embarrassed.
"Nothing will deter me from exposing the truth about the antisemitism allowed to fester on Jeremy Corbyn’s watch."
'LONG LIVE STALIN'
The comments by Mr Watson appeared to put him at odds with both Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who have stopped short of condemning the actions of members of the local Labour branch.
Mr McDonnell sparked an angry backlash from Labour MPs this morning after he appeared to suggest Ms Berger was to blame for failing to rule out speculation linking her to a new centrist party.
He told Sky News: "If people are saying, ‘look we are expressing no-confidence because Luciana has stood up and exposed anti-Semitism in our party,’ that would be completely wrong and of course we would say that was not right.
"But it looks as though there are other issues. It seems on social media, that what’s happened is Luciana has been associated in the media with a break away party…
"The media have asked her to deny that and she hasn’t been clear on that. So, my advice on all of this is for Luciana to just put this issue to bed - to say very clearly, ‘no I am not supporting another party, I’m not jumping ship'."
Labour MP Ian Austin said: "It’s like something out of the Soviet Union’s show trials where people were let off if they confessed their disloyalty and shouted ‘Long Live Stalin’."