John McDonnell sparks fresh Labour anti-Semitism row after telling Luciana Berger to make peace with her critics
John McDonnell has drawn the fury of Labour MPs after he suggested Luciana Berger should rule-out quitting the party if she wants to halt attempts by her local branch to censure her.
The Liverpool Wavertree MP is facing two no confidence motions laid by members of her local party unhappy at her criticism of Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms Berger, who is Jewish, has repeatedly raised concerns about how the party’s leadership has tackled on-going problems with anti-Semitism within Labour.
But speaking to Sky News, the Shadow Chancellor said the upcoming votes were not related to her stand against Jewish hatred.
“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,” he said.
“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'.”
One of the local members proposing the motion against Ms Berger has reportedly branded her a “disruptive Zionist” in social media posts, comments which Mr McDonnell said were “totally unacceptable”.
'LONG LIVE STALIN'
But Labour MP Ian Austin hit out at the Shadow Chancellor, telling PoliticsHome: “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’.”
Streatham MP Chuka Umunna added: “So a victim of outrageous racism in Labour must promise she will not walk because of that racism and then this can all go away. How about demanding her CLP treats her with the respect she deserves?
“How about the party deal with that racism? Words fail me. Totally unacceptable.”
Although a motion of no confidence has no official force under Labour party rules, it could be used as the first step in the process of deselecting Ms Berger as a candidate at the next election.
Labour MP Wes Streeting also blasted Mr McDonnell for giving “tacit approval” to anti-Semitic members within her local party.
“The only thing Luciana isn’t ‘clear’ about is whether she is still welcome in the Labour party after years of anti-Semitic abuse," he said.
"She could dance through the streets of Liverpool singing ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ and she would still be on the receiving end of anti-Semitic abuse, including from the man bringing the motion against her who describes his MP as a ‘disruptive zionist’ and thinks the media is controlled by ‘Zionist masters’.”
He added: “John McDonnell should be calling this out, not giving tacit approval to these people. If we lose Jewish members like her, it will be the Labour party’s doing, not her's.”
Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, meanwhile tweeted: "Demanding loyalty from @lucianaberger rather than addressing the racism in your party? What a disgrace.
"Take responsibility @johnmcdonnellMP and deal with the racism in your own party. What has @UKLabour become?"
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has said: “I don’t know what’s happening in Luciana’s constituency but she has my full support in speaking out and stamping out racism and antisemitism that’s in our party & wider community.”
Ms Berger has so-far refused to deny rumours that she could join several other disaffected Labour MPs in jumping ship from Labour over concerns about the handling of Brexit and its failure to get a grip on anti-Semitism.