No confidence vote in Labour MP Luciana Berger pulled

Luciana BergerImage copyright PA

Motions of no confidence in Labour MP Luciana Berger have been withdrawn by her local party after a bitter row.

Activists in Liverpool Wavertree said Ms Berger – a critic of Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism – had been undermining Jeremy Corbyn.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell sparked a backlash from supporters of the MP by suggesting she should have pledged loyalty to Labour.

He said Ms Berger had been linked to an alleged Labour “breakaway” party.

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

In a statement after the motions were first put forward, Ms Berger said she would be not be “distracted from fighting for the interests of my constituents”.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has written 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 was sent to Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party members, warning them that the meeting planned for next Sunday had 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“This is because the two motions to be discussed have both been withdrawn by the members who proposed them,” it said.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.

MP’s ‘long-held view’

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.

But Mr McDonnell faced a backlash after he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the motions came about because Ms Berger is “associated” with rumours of a new centrist party being formed, and it was “an expression of views” by the local party.

He said: “My advice to Luciana is just tell people you are not supporting a breakaway party, you are sticking with the Labour Party, you are not jumping ship.

“And my advice to the Labour Party members there is if there are differences of opinion there, get together, talk about it and see how you can support the campaign alongside your local MP.”

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”.

And Labour MP Ian Austin – who faced suspension after a row over the party’s anti-Semitism codetold PoliticsHome: “It’s like something out of the Soviet Union’s show trials where people were let off if they confessed their disloyalty and shouted ‘Long Live Stalin’.”

Image copyright UK Parliament
Image caption Luciana Berger has criticised Jeremy Corbyn for his handling of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party

The decision to pull the motions was welcome by the Mayor of Liverpool, Labour’s Joe Anderton.

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.

The mayor also warned that the Liverpool Wavertree party was “becoming a voice that isn’t representative of the wider constituency”.

Ms Berger is not the first Labour MP to have faced a no confidence vote from their local parties over their views on Brexit. Others include Frank Field – who now represents Birkenhead as an independent MP – and Kate Hoey.

Conservative Nick Boles also believes his constituency party in Grantham and Stamford is looking to oust him as a candidate at the next election.