Labour investigates Liverpool members over ‘bullying’ of Luciana Berger

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Accusations of antisemitism follow no-confidence motion by Wavertree branch

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has said the party is investigating the conduct of some members of the Liverpool Wavertree branch over what he said was “bullying” of the local MP, Luciana Berger.

A motion of no-confidence in Berger over claims she had been disloyal to Jeremy Corbyn which had been due to be debated by the local party was withdrawn on Friday amid a row over antisemitism.

Local members had told the Guardian that one of Berger’s critics had posted on Facebook that the MP should be “exposed for the disruptive Zionist she is”, and that evidence of antisemitism had undermined what some viewed as legitimate criticism.

But in a statement released on Sunday, the executive of the Liverpool Wavertree constituency Labour party rejected accusations of political bullying, and said claims of antisemitism were a “false and slanderous accusation”.

But Watson, who called on Friday for the local party to be suspended, said some members were “trying to drive out” Berger.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “She’s being bullied. That motion should never have been moved in her local party, the meeting to hear it should never have been scheduled.”

He said Corbyn had “made it clear these things are not done in his name”, and they “are not helping him, they are harming the reputation of the Labour party”.

After Marr mentioned that Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, had stated she did not have the power to suspend the local party, Watson responded that Formby had confirmed to him “that she is investigating members in that constituency”, adding he had another complaint that evening that he intended to to follow up. Watson went on to conclude there are grounds for suspension.

Earlier, the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said Berger had his “full support”.

He added: “It’s clear we need to go further and faster in dealing with antisemitism in the Labour party – one antisemite in the Labour party is one too many.”

Earlier on the programme, former Labour prime minister Tony Blair called Berger’s treatment “shameful”.

He said: “The fact that someone like Luciana Berger – who is a smart, capable, active member of parliament doing her best for her constituents – the fact that she should even be subject to a no-confidence motion with this type of allegation swirling around is shameful for the Labour party.”

The Liverpool Wavertree executive said it had not control over motions submitted by members “and very little choice on whether to debate legitimately-submitted motions”.

In a statement they said: “We strongly reject the media inaccuracies and the accusations of political bullying, for simply adhering to party rules and doing our jobs.”

“Furthermore, we as an executive have always and continue now to express total solidarity with Luciana as a victim of misogyny and 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.”

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