Ruth George sorry for claiming ex-Labour MPs may have Israeli backing
A Labour MP has apologised for claiming a group of ex-colleagues who quit the party in protest over anti-Semitism may be backed by the Israeli government.
Ruth George, the MP for High Peak, suggested it was "possible" the seven MPs who jumped ship on Monday were being supported by the state of Israel.
She later issued a statement saying she was "deeply sorry for her ill-thought out and poorly worded comment".
The Independent Group of MPs says it is being backed by a limited company.
But the new grouping, whose members include prominent Jewish MP Luciana Berger, is not a registered political party and therefore does not have to disclose donations it has received or other sources of revenue.
On its website, the group says it does not have the "big money or infrastructure of the political parties" and is appealing for people to donate between £5 and £500.
Ms George, who was first elected in 2017 and is a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, said on Facebook that the new group should be more open about its financial backers.
She was responding to a councillor in her Derbyshire constituency "loving" a post with a picture of the seven MPs with the word Israelis underneath.
Asked to comment on this, she said she would "condemn the calling of anyone as an Israeli when it is not the case" but suggested the comment "appears not to refer to the independent MPs but to their financial backers".
"Support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel of which Luciana was chair is possible," she added.
"I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group's financial backers are not being revealed. It is important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy."
After criticism of her comments on social media, Ms George issued a statement of apology on Facebook.
"I unreservedly and wholeheartedly apologise for my comment," she said.
"I had no intention of invoking a conspiracy theory and I am deeply sorry that my ill-thought out and poorly worded comment did this. I withdraw it completely."
According to its website, the splinter group of MPs is "supported" by Gemini A, a limited company which is registered to an address in Altrincham, Greater Manchester.