WATCH: Tom Watson says Luciana Berger's critics 'bring disgrace' to the Labour party
Tom Watson has accused Labour members planning a vote of no confidence in Luciana Berger of "bringing disgrace" on the party.
Labour's deputy leader said the Liverpool Wavertree MP should be supported over the "bullying and hatred" he said she had been subjected to by activists in her constituency.
His comments appear to put him at odds with both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, who have stopped short of condemning the actions of members of Ms Berger's Constituency Labour Party.
It emerged on Thursday that Ms Berger - who has campaigned against anti-Semitism in Labour ranks - will face two motions of no confidence at a special meeting on 17 February.
Both motions accuse her of criticising Jeremy Corbyn instead of fighting for a general election and opposing the Conservatives.
But speaking for Labour in a debate on Tory MP Theresa Villiers' Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) private member's bill, Mr Watson said: "As we unify and commit to support this bill, let us not forget our honourable colleagues on both sides of the House, the subject of death threats, the subject of racist abuse, the subject of misogynistic abuse, the subject of bullying and anti-Semitism.
"And as the deputy leader of my party let me say to the honourable colleagues facing that abuse, and in particular my friend and comrade the member for Liverpool Wavertree, that she has our solidarity, our support, as she battles the bullying and hatred from members of her own local party. They bring disgrace to the party that I love."
Deputy Speaker of the Commons Eleanor Laing chipped in: "On behalf of the whole House, I'm sure that every member of this place would echo what the right honorable gentleman has just said about the honorable member for Liverpool Wavetree.
"She has the support of all of us and we must all stand together to stand up for her and defend her in every way posible and root out the sort of behaviour that is going on. It has no place in our free democracy."
Asked to comment on the no confidence motions last night, a Labour spokesman said: "Jeremy Corbyn has made clear that no one should be criticised for speaking out against anti-Semitism."
Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor 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’."