No-confidence motions against Labour MP Luciana Berger have been withdrawn, in a row that has sparked a call by deputy leader Tom Watson to suspend her local party.

Activists in Liverpool Wavertree backed down after widespread condemnation of their move and accusations of antisemitism.

Now Mr Watson has attacked their actions as “intolerable” and urged general secretary Jennie Formby to suspend the local party for bringing Labour “into disrepute”.

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Earlier, Labour MPs attacked John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, after he suggested Ms Berger was to blame for the clash with her local party by failing to rule out joining a new centrist party.

They said she was being targeted as part of “years of antisemitic abuse” and was “a victim of outrageous racism in Labour”.

Mr Watson had quickly distanced himself from Mr McDonnell and demanded support for Ms Berger as “the subject of racist abuse, the subject of misogynistic abuse, the subject of bullying and antisemitism”.

In a letter sent to Ms Formby, he wrote: “This behaviour by her local party is intolerable.

“The actions of her constituency are not only threating towards Luciana personally but are bringing our party into disrepute.

“I am therefore requesting that you take the necessary steps to suspend Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party.”

The first of two motions against Ms Berger, which were to be put to a vote on 17 February, ​accused the MP of “continuously criticising our leader when she should be working for a general election and opposing the Tories”.

The other also highlighted alleged undermining of Jeremy Corbyn, claiming she is “continually using the media to criticise the man we all want to be prime minister”.

However, one of the motions was proposed by a member who previously called Ms Berger, the parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, a “disruptive Zionist”.

Nevertheless, Mr McDonnell – while saying it would be “completely wrong” if the motions were a response to Ms Berger standing up to antisemitism – insisted there were other motivations.

“It looks as though there’s other issues,” he said. “It seems on social media, from what I’ve seen, what’s happened is Luciana has been associated in the media with a breakaway party.

“Some local party members [and] the media have asked her to deny that. She hasn’t been clear in that.”

Mr McDonnell added: “So my advice really, on all of this, is for Luciana to just put this issue to bed. Say very clearly: ‘No, I’m not supporting another party, I’m not jumping ship.’”

Ms Formby is due to update Labour MPs on progress made in rooting out antisemitism at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) on Monday, having been given a week to do so.

The party’s ruling national executive committee is believed to have agreed that it will share new data on the number of cases of abuse. 

 


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