Labour MPs believe disciplinary action should be taken against Peter Willsman, says shadow minister
Labour MPs believe "disciplinary procedures" should take place against a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn following his comments about Jewish people, shadow equalities minister Naz Shah has said.
Peter Willsman has come under increasing pressure to drop his bid to be re-elected to Labour’s ruling national executive committee after he was secretly recorded dismissing Jewish critics of the party as "Trump fanatics".
Pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum last night pulled its support for the veteran activist, branding his comments "deeply insensitive".
Mr Willsman has apologised for the comments and has agreed to undergo equalities training.
Labour sources have meanwhile said Mr Willsman has been spoken to by general secretary Jennie Formby, and warned of “disciplinary action if he were to repeat his behaviour”.
But Ms Shah today suggested Labour should go further, as she vowed to make sure the party was seen as “the home for the Jewish community where it naturally belongs".
Ms Shah told Sky News that deputy leader Tom Watson had already made “very, very strong statements” against Mr Willsman – who he branded a "loud-mouthed bully” – and said MPs had made it “absolutely clear there should be disciplinary procedures” against the NEC member.
She said: "We need to be really clear… My understanding is that the party are taking robust action with regards to that recording, because there is no space for those kind of words in our party and we are very clear about that."
The call comes after fellow Labour frontbencher Baroness Smith, the party’s leader in the Lords, said Mr Willsman should “consider his position” over the row.
"This isn’t just an ordinary party member,” she told the BBC.
“This is somebody on the ruling body. Our National Executive Committee. That is absolutely key, that we can’t have people making these comments at meetings of our ruling body of the Labour Party."
ACTION AGAINST HODGE AND AUSTIN 'NOT ABOUT PUNISHING THEM'
Ms Shah meanwhile defended Labour’s decision to launch disciplinary proceedings against two MPs who criticised the party’s response to anti-Jewish abuse.
Margaret Hodge is facing a probe after confronting Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons and branding him “an anti-Semite and a racist”, while party chiefs have also warned Ian Austin, who reportedly branded party chair Ian Lavery an “f***ing b*stard”.
Asked if the party should take action against the pair, Ms Shah said: "If you have complaints, I think it's incumbent upon any organisation to follow their disciplinary procedures and I think that's a matter for the NEC.”
Ms Hodge – who lost family members in the Holocaust – today vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to bring Labour “back to the values that brought me into it some 55 years ago and make it a relevant force today”.
“It’s why I joined the Labour party 55 years ago,” she told the BBC’s Woman’s Hour show.
“I was an immigrant Jew, came here at the age of four and five and this was the natural home for people who wanted to fight oppression and racism.
“That’s why I joined it and I think all of us feel that that’s why our identity and our values are being challenged by this sudden surge in anti-Semitism, which is not only allowed by the leadership – I’ve now come to the conclusion that it may also be views held the leadership itself.”
But Ms Shah said the action against the two MPs was not about “punishing them for sticking up for the Jewish community”.
“My understanding is this is about people who have complained about behaviour, which is a very different thing,” she said.
The frontbencher added: "It is absolutely right that all MPs are able to express to their leaders, to the party, that they are… not happy with how the party has dealt with things. It is absolutely right that they are able to do that…
"I feel that it's also important that people do that with the utmost of respect to each other.”