The Wavertree branch of the Labour Party has withdrawn two no-confidence motions in the Labour/Co-op MP Luciana Berger, and cancelled a special meeting to consider them.
Meanwhile, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has called for the local party to be suspended. Speaking on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, he said the MP was “being bullied” and argued the motion should have never been moved in her local party. He added that Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, had told him she was investigating members in the constituency.
In his letter to Ms Formby, Mr Watson warned the actions in Wavertree were bringing the party into “disrepute”, and asked her to suspend the branch.
But Ms Formby decided against this. Writing to the branch on 10 February, she welcomed the withdrawal of the motions and said Ms Berger, who is nearly nine months pregnant, was “under pressure from continuous abuse and threats”.
She said the motions did not make any mention of antisemitism but referred to Ms Berger’s lack of support for Jeremy Corbyn. Arguing that Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) were at liberty to discuss motions of no confidence in their elected representatives, she said she had seen no evidence of behaviour in Wavertree that constituted potential bullying or antisemitism, other than complaints about one individual which were being investigated.
“I am therefore clear that there is no justification for suspending the CLP,” she concluded.
Responding to the allegations of political bullying, the local party said it had “no control” over motions legitimately submitted by CLP members. It added that the motions had a “controversial nature” and did not mention antisemitism.
“But we strongly reject the media inaccuracies and accusations of political bullying, for simply adhering to party rules and doing our jobs,” it said in a statement on 10 February. “Furthermore, we, as an executive, have always and continue to express total solidarity with Luciana as a victim of antisemitism – coming mostly from the far right. Our chair is himself Jewish and the suggestion that the CLP executive is in any way a party to bullying and antisemitism is a false and slanderous accusation.”
Ms Berger said she was working to represent her constituents in parliament. She explained that 72.5% of constituents now support remaining in the European Union, with 74% of people wanting a people’s vote.
“These voices must be represented and must be heard,” she said. “I will not shy away from standing up for them. I, along with my Labour colleagues, have now tried, and sadly failed, to force a general election.
“I will not help the Tories get their disastrous deal through. The best outcome would be to trust the people of this country with a vote on whatever blindfold Brexit deal Theresa May secures. This is fully in line with the decision taken at the Labour Party national conference here in Liverpool in September last year.”
She added: “These are fraught political times and the Labour party has many views on these vitally important issues.”
The MP said she was “deeply disturbed“ by what she described as “a lack of response” from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and others within the party’s leadership in addressing antisemitism within the organisation.
She added: “I and my colleagues have pressed the party for months to take concrete action to tackle this serious issue. I joined colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday [4 February] in a unanimous call to the party to be transparent about what it has and has not done to root out antisemitism in the party.
“I am deeply disturbed at the party leadership’s desire to brush this aside and its decision not to comply with the expressed wish of Labour MPs. Nothing will deter me from exposing antisemitism wherever it festers, including in the Labour Party where it is being wilfully ignored.”