UK Politics

No-confidence vote in Labour MP Luciana Berger pulled

Luciana Berger Image copyright PA

Motions of no confidence in Labour MP Luciana Berger have been withdrawn by her local party after a bitter row.

The Liverpool Wavertree MP has been a critic of leader Jeremy Corbyn's stances on anti-Semitism and Brexit.

Activists had accused the Jewish MP of "undermining" Mr Corbyn but several Labour MPs supported her, calling it a "disgraceful episode" and "bullying".

A source close to the Labour leadership said pulling the confidence vote was the right decision.

But Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside Louise Ellman, who is also Jewish, called it "an absolutely disgraceful episode" and said it was "very clear the attacks" on Ms Berger had been down to anti-Semitism.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell had earlier sparked a backlash from supporters of the MP by suggesting she should have pledged loyalty to Labour and saying she had been linked to an alleged Labour "breakaway" party.

'Intolerable'

In a statement after the motions were first put forward, Ms Berger said she would fight anti-Semitism wherever she found it, including in Labour, where it was being "ignored".

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson wrote to the party's general secretary Jennie Formby, calling for the Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to be suspended.

He wrote: "It is clear to me that Luciana Berger is being bullied. This behaviour by her local party is intolerable."

An email has now been sent to Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party members, telling them that the meeting planned for next Sunday has been cancelled.

"This is because the two motions to be discussed have both been withdrawn by the members who proposed them," it said.

Votes of no confidence carry no official force within the Labour Party, but local activists could hold a "trigger ballot", where sitting Labour MPs can be forced to compete for selection as a candidate against all-comers, ahead of the next general election.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John McDonnell suggested Ms Berger should pledge her loyalty to the Labour Party

Ms Berger has been the target of online abuse and had a police escort at last year's Labour Party conference following death threats.

Earlier this week, she joined other MPs at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party calling for details on the party's efforts to tackle anti-Semitism to be released.

Ms Berger reiterated her "long-held view that Brexit will be a disaster for the people of Liverpool Wavertree and the wider country", and said that, as a Jewish woman representing a city with a Jewish community, she was "deeply disturbed by the lack of response from Jeremy Corbyn... to the anti-Semitism that stains our party", claiming it was being "wilfully ignored."

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband and prominent backbencher Yvette Cooper were among a number of her colleagues to express their support for Ms Berger after the news of a no-confidence vote broke on Tuesday night.

Ms Ellman, accused Mr McDonnell of thinking he and the party "would get away with this", and said Labour had been "shamed" into reversing the motions.

She told Radio 4's PM programme that it was "too easy [for Labour] to turn a blind eye" to anti-Semitism and said dropping the motions was "not the end of the matter".

"Anti-Semitism is alive in the party [and] insufficient steps had been taken to [tackle it]," she added.

Former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said Mr McDonnell "should never have allowed his allies to have gone after Luciana like that in the first place".

Liverpool Mayor Labour's Joe Anderton also welcomed the decision to pull the votes.

He told Radio 4's PM programme that there should be "robust debate and discussion" at local Labour Party meetings instead of motions of no confidence, and that he was "really frustrated and angry" at how the members had acted.

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