EXCL Labour MPs' fury as Emily Thornberry says party bullying row is 'one of those things'

Posted On: 
18th February 2018

Labour MPs have reacted angrily after Emily Thornberry shrugged off claims that a senior female official was bullied at a fractious party meeting.

Emily Thornberry appeared on ITV show Peston on Sunday this morning
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said the row in Leeds over electing a new chair for the party’s National Policy Forum was "one of those things".

The controversy was sparked when NPF vice-chair Katrina Murray was dramatically over-ruled on the floor of the meeting by Andy Kerr, the chair of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee.

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Critics accused the party leadership of seeking to hold the process up because Ann Black - who was ousted as head of Labour's disciplinary body last month amid claims she was not loyal enough to Jeremy Corbyn - was set to win the contest to replace Ann Cryer as NPF boss.

The vote on the new chair was eventually postponed, but top Labour figures - including MPs Lucy Powell and Luciana Berger - decried the treatment of Ms Murray.

Asked about the incident today, Ms Thornberry - who voted in favour of an official challenge to Ms Murray at yesterday's event - played down the furore.

"I think there are allegations that she was pushed, she was shoved, she was intimidated, that there was anti-Semitism,” she told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

"This is just kind of one of those things. I talked to her afterwards."

But an angry Labour MP shot back that the response of the top Shadow Cabinet member was “making my colleagues incandescent”.

They said: No one mentioned anti-Semitism except her. There seem to be no depths to which she will not go."

Another backbencher said their colleagues were "furious" with Ms Thornberry, and her repeated attempts to justify her actions on a WhatsApp group for female Labour MPs.

"Emily even tried to suggest to Cat McKinnell that she shouldn't believe everything she reads, before Cat pointed out that she was at the meeting as well," they said.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner meanwhile told the same show there had been "energy" at the meeting but that the party was focused on its policy plans and not "internal fighting".

After a private discussion between Ms Murray and Mr Kerr at the meeting, it was confirmed that the vote to decide the new NPF chair would not be taking place.

It means Ms Murray will carry out the role in an interim capacity until a replacement for departing chair Ann Cryer is chosen.

Ms Murray tried to play down the row, tweeting a picture of herself with Mr Kerr and the message: "Thanks to everyone with their good wishes but honestly, as you can see - as a trade union woman - I can deal with it."

A senior Labour source said the bullying claims against Mr Kerr were "unfounded".

He said: "Katrina Murray tried to act outside of the rules and Andy Kerr intervened. For elections to be valid, seven days notice is required according to party rules.

"That's why the NEC ruled out an election at its first opportunity. NPF officers can't call an election as it would have breached rules. The NPF can't overrule the NEC."