Labour chairman says local parties should not face 'trial by social media' in bitter row over Luciana Berger treatment

Posted On: 
10th February 2019

Labour chairman Ian Lavery has warned against subjecting local parties to "trial by social media" amid a bitter row over attempts to hold a no-confidence vote in Jewish MP Luciana Berger.

Ian Lavery said members were the "lifeblood" of the Labour party.
Credit: 
PA

The Liverpool Wavertree MP - who has repeatedly raised concerns about the party's handling of anti-Semitic abuse - faced two no confidence motions laid by members of her local party unhappy at her criticism of Jeremy Corbyn.

The motions were later dropped, but the row prompted Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson to write to the party's general secretary Jennie Formby urging the temporary disbanding of the area's Constituency Labour Party.

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Writing for HuffPost UK, however, Mr Lavery - a key ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - warned against subjecting "whole constituency parties" to online attacks as he described members as the "lifeblood" of the party.

He wrote: "The small minority of people expressing antisemitic views must and are being rooted out.  

"We have a wider role to play in educating our party and the wider country about the evil of anti-Semitism, and I urge Jewish community organisations to join us in this work. More needs to be done.

"It is unacceptable for either MPs or whole constituency parties to be subject to trial by social media, as happens too often in the current climate.

"We all have a duty as members of the Labour family to be more tolerant and to listen to one another. We owe that to our suffering country."

FORMBY IN WATSON REBUKE

The intervention came as general secretary Jennie Formby issued a thinly-veiled rebuke to deputy leader Tom Watson's call to suspend the Liverpool and Wavertree CLP, saying his demand for action had "no constitutional basis".

She said: "I’m pleased that the motions to Wavertree CLP regarding Luciana Berger were withdrawn.

"At a time when she continues to experience appalling abuse it is right to stand in solidarity with her.

"For all those asking, there was no constitutional basis on which to suspend the CLP."

But that was branded "garbage" by Labour MP Ian Austin, who has also frequently criticised the party's handling of anti-Jewish abuse.

Ms Berger this week repeatedly refused to rule out quitting Labour, telling ITV's Peston there was "disaffection with the lack of leadership that we’re seeing on all sides".

In a warning to MPs thinking of leaving the fold, Mr Lavery said: "Unity is strength, but it must be unity for a purpose.

"I urge any MP thinking of leaving Labour to remember that, and stick with us – and stick by the people Labour exists to serve."

The now-dropped local motions against Ms Berger accused her of "continually using the media to criticise the man we all want to be Prime Minister" and said she had been "continually criticising our leader when she should be working for a general election and opposing the Tories".

Hitting back in a statement, the MP said: "Nothing will deter me from exposing anti-semitism wherever it festers, including in the Labour Party where it is being wilfully ignored.

"My values remain the same as they did when I was first elected. I will not be distracted from fighting for the interests of my constituents."