Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has waded into the row over outspoken Labour leadership critic Luciana Berger, who is facing a vote of no confidence by her local constituency party.
McDonnell said he understood the action against Ms Berger was triggered by concern the MP could join a breakaway party, not because she has criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on antisemitism.
Ms Berger, who is Jewish, has been highly critical of Mr Corbyn over his handling of antisemitism within the Labour Party, as well as his positioning on Brexit.
Senior Labour MPs, including Dame Margaret Hodge, Ed Miliband and Ian Austin, have rallied behind Ms Berger after it emerged the Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party had called an extraordinary meeting for February 17 to discuss two no-confidence motions.
McDonnell has called on the MP to make clear she is not planning to “jump ship”.
The shadow chancellor told Sky News: “If people are saying ‘look, we are expressing a vote of no confidence because Luciana has stood up and exposed antisemitism in our party’, that would be completely wrong and, of course, we would say that is not right.
“But it looks as though there’s other issues.
“It seems on social media, from what I’ve seen, what’s happened is Luciana has been associated in the media with a breakaway party.
“Some local party members, the media, have asked her to deny that. She hasn’t been clear in that.
“So my advice really, on all of this, is for Luciana to just put this issue to bed.
“Say very clearly ‘no, I’m not supporting another party, I’m not jumping ship’.
“And for local party members to sit down with Luciana and actually say ‘how can we support you? How can we work together in the future?’ And then overcome the present difficulties.”
Mr McDonnell said: “It’s not a deselection from what I understand. We are not into our selection process.
“It’s a vote of no confidence, which is simply an expression by local party members.”
Condemning McDonnell’s remarks, Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust tweeted: “Demanding loyalty from Luciana Berger rather than addressing the racism in your party? What a disgrace. Take responsibility John McDonnell and deal with the racism in your own party. What has Labour become?”
Ms Berger’s stance on antisemitism has seen her face a torrent of abuse from online trolls and she required a police escort at last year’s Labour Party conference after receiving death threats.
The move against Ms Berger comes after she joined other MPs at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday in calling for details on the party’s efforts to tackle antisemitism to be released.