One hates to exhume a corny catchphrase invented about Scousers by someone who knew very little about them, but in view of yet another internal Labour Party argument which is not only generating more heat than light, but threatening to be more useful to the party’s opponents in other parties, the right-leaning press and elsewhere, it seemed strangely apposite. Everyone needs to take a step back.
What has happened can be put directly: Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party had two motions of no confidence in their MP, Luciana Berger, submitted recently. Both were in accordance with the relevant rules. After extensive discussions, and having paused for thought, both were withdrawn. That Ms Berger is heavily pregnant was clearly a factor, as was her having suffered years of anti-Semitic abuse.
Sadly, matters were not allowed to rest there. Suggestions were made in the London press that this was yet another example of low-level anti-Semitism and perhaps an attempt to deselect an MP who had been less than totally supportive of party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The inability of those in the press to do the most basic research was exposed when it was pointed out that the Chair of Wavertree CLP is disabled … and Jewish.
Regrettably, deputy leader Tom Watson - someone for whom this blog has a lot of time, especially because of his sterling work on press misbehaviour and reform of press regulation, a cause to which Ms Berger has previously been close - intervened further, suggesting that Wavertree CLP should be suspended. He also made accusations of bullying during an interview yesterday on The Andy Marr Show™.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby has now confirmed in an email that Liverpool Wavertree CLP has no case to answer, and that there will not be a suspension. Her communication with Alex Scott-Samuels has been made available, and bears close reading.
“I welcomed the withdrawal of the motions, as with Luciana being nearly 9 months pregnant, and under pressure from continuous abuse and threats, I fet that they were ill-judged” she states. She also has this to say about no confidence motions in general.
“CLPs are at liberty to discuss motions of no confidence in their elected representatives, including MPs, and in the case of Wavertree, to date I have seen no evidence of any behaviours that constitute potential bullying or anti-Semitism, other than the complaints about one individual which are being investigated”. And on Ms Berger’s treatment?
“Before the motions were withdrawn, I had taken steps with the region to ensure that Luciana felt supported if she attended the meeting, and to arrange for regional staff to be present to ensure that the meeting was run in an orderly manner”. Something else that you will not see in our free and fearless press - well, not outside Merseyside, anyway.
Ms Formby makes this conclusion: “I am therefore clear that there is no justification for suspending the CLP and should be grateful if you would share this with your executive”.
And with that, perhaps all concerned can now - yes, it’s that catchphrase again - calm down, take a step back, and thus extract the heat from the argument.
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