Diane Abbott backs calls for Tom Watson to QUIT for daring to challenge Labour chief over her role in the anti-Semitism crisis while she is being treated for cancer
- Panorama expose has fueled the anti-Semitism crisis wracking the Labour Party
- Tom Watson has demanded the party publish submission to official investigation
- General Secretary Jennie Formby condemned attacks on her while she is ill
Labour collapsed into open civil warfare today as Jeremy Corbyn’s closest followers demanded his deputy Tom Watson quit for challenging a top party official over the anti-Semitism crisis while she was being treated for cancer.
Diane Abbott led a cabal of hard Left MPs who piled into Mr Watson on social media today after he criticised general secretary Jennie Formby.
Shadow home secretary Ms Abbott retweeted a series of critical remarks about the deputy leader, including one questioning his position after he ramped up pressure on the party over its handling of anti-Semitism in the wake of a damning BBC Panorama documentary.
The close associate of Mr Corbyn shared a tweet from NEC representative Claudia Webbe criticising Mr Watson for sending Ms Formby a highly critical letter.
‘This is not behaviour befitting of the Office of Deputy Leader. You should consider your position?’ it said.
Party chairman Ian Lavery, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon and fellow Labour MPs Emma Dent Coad and Danielle Rowley were among those who also published diatribes as the schism in the party over anti-semitism widened even further.
It followed an extraordinary riposte from Ms Formby, who said it was ‘inappropriate’ for Mr Watson to highlight her role in the scandal while she was being treated for breast cancer.
The infighting came amid huge fallout from a bombshell BBC Panorama documentary into Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism.
More than 30 whistleblowers are now preparing to give evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is investigating the party’s handling of abuse. They apparently include serving members of staff.
Labour has furiously denied the claims, which it said were made by ‘disaffected employees’ who had always opposed Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
General secretary Jennie Formby (pictured with Mr Corbyn) has denied accusations that she deleted emails relating to anti-Semitism cases
Mr Watson (pictured at Labour HQ this week) has written to Ms Formby calling for the party to publish its submission to an official racism probe, as well as raising allegations she had deleted emails relating to cases – something she denies
Diane Abbott led a cabal of hard Left MPs who piled into Mr Watson on social media today after he criticised general secretary Jennie Formby
The rebuke came after Mr Watson wrote to Ms Formby calling for the party to publish its submission to an official racism probe, as well as raising allegations she had deleted emails relating to cases – something she denies.
In a furious reply, Ms Formby, who is having treatment for breast cancer, said she was ‘very disappointed’ in his approach and accused him of abusing his position.
She said: ‘Traducing my reputation and publicly attacking me when you know I am undergoing chemotherapy and am unable to respond in the media is another example of the inappropriate way in which you choose to discuss this issue.’
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn piled into the row following the letter, in a seemingly coordinated attempt to damage Mr Watson.
MP Emma Dent Coad suggested Mr Watson was ‘bullying’ the top official.
But Labour MP Wes Streeting, a Corbyn critic, lashed out saying: ‘What we have seen during the past 48 hours from Labour’s leadership is a total disgrace.
‘Attacks on victims of racism, on whistleblowers and the media, hiding behind others, sending out proxies and relying on trolls to mount a defence of the indefensible. It is worthy of Trump.’
Labour MPs Emma Dent Coad, Danielle Rowley, Richard Burgon and Diane Abbott were among those condemning Mr Watson on Twitter today
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell also criticised the manner and timing of Mr Watson’s letter, saying it ‘goes beyond my understanding’ that it was sent ‘when he knows she’s undergoing chemotherapy’.
‘I just don’t understand why the deputy leader of the Labour Party uses the media to demand information from Labour’s General Secretary @JennieGenSec, which has already been offered to him,’ Mr McDonnell tweeted.
Whistleblowers could give evidence to formal anti-Semitism probe
Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis has deepened amid claims dozens of whistleblowers are ready to give evidence to an official probe.
More than 30 staffers are preparing to submit material to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is investigating the party’s handling of abuse.
They apparently include serving Labour members of staff.
The independent probe could be hugely damaging for the party, which has always made great play of its history as a force against racism.
In his letter, Mr Watson said a document produced for the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation of the party should be made public because ‘only sunlight can disinfect Labour of anti-Semitism now’.
He also said he believes there was ‘some participation’ from leader Jeremy Corbyn’s office in the disciplinary process dealing with accusations of anti-Semitism.
The party’s deputy leader claimed there was ‘almost a permissive culture’ towards anti-Jewish racism in the ranks after damning claims about the party’s handling of accusations were broadcast.
A total of eight people told the BBC’s Panorama programme they were undermined in their attempts to tackle anti-Semitism in the party.
Former officials alleged Labour’s director of communications Seumas Milne and Ms Formby interfered with investigations.
Four of those who spoke out, including former Labour general secretary Lord Iain McNicol, broke non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to do so.
Labour has denied the claims and written a complaint to the BBC.
In his letter to Ms Formby, Mr Watson said the people who spoke to the programme were ‘very brave to go before a camera and tell their stories’.
‘The way that they have been smeared, including by Labour spokespeople, is deplorable,’ he said.
‘Even if some in the party did not want to hear what they had to say, it is unacceptable to attempt to undermine their integrity and characters in this manner.’
In an extraordinary riposte, Jennie Formby said it was ‘inappropriate’ for Tom Watson to ‘traduce’ her reputation while she was undergoing cancer treatment