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MPs who quit Labour over antisemitism concerns ‘facing rise in abuse online’ | Politics News

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MPs who left the Labour party this week over antisemitism say they have faced increased online abuse from left-wing activists and Jeremy Corbyn supporters since quitting.

The abuse against Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan was revealed in an emotional Commons debate on antisemitism, in which Corbyn ally Barry Gardiner apologised to the Jewish community.

Ms Berger and Ms Ryan, part of the 11-strong group of breakaway MPs now sitting in the Commons as independents, were praised by former Labour colleagues for their courage in fighting antisemitism.

But despite the tributes, high-profile Jewish Labour MPs Dame Margaret Hodge, Dame Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth, all vowed to stay in the party and fight to stamp out antisemitism in its ranks.

With Mr Corbyn not in the chamber for the debate, Ms Berger – who is heavily pregnant – spoke of a rise in “insidious antisemitic conspiracy theories” against her, which included:

:: Being an agent of Mossad
:: Being “a traitor to my country”
:: Being paid directly by Benjamin Netanyahu “based purely on my Jewish background”

She added: “And just yesterday an individual who says they are a member of the Labour party and with the hashtag #JCforPM in their bio… said: ‘Shame on Luciana Berger, A Zionist Bitch, I hate her, I hate her baby, her Israel.'”

(back row left to right) Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Chuka Umunna and Mike Gapes, (middle row, left to right) Angela Smith, Luciana Berger and Ann Coffey, (front row, left to right) Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Joan Ryan
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Eleven MPs have so far quit their parties to join the independent group

Ms Berger also said an Labour-affiliated group, Young Labour, had said the departure of Ms Ryan would mean “Palestine lived”.

And she said the eight Labour defectors had been called “the Israel stooges party” and “the Israeli apartheid democratic front”.

She told MPs: “This is a shameful record, let alone from a leadership and a political party that seek the highest office in our land.

“That is why I have arrived at the sickening conclusion that the Labour party is institutionally antisemitic in its processes, its attitudes and its behaviour.”

But she pledged: “I will certainly not be intimidated, bullied or silenced.”

Earlier, Mr Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, told MPs: “On behalf of my party, I want to publicly apologise to the Jewish community that we have let them down. We know it and we are trying to do better.

“We are trying to become the party that we have always aspired to be. We will not stop working until we once again become a safe and welcoming political home for people from the Jewish community, as from every other.”

But former Labour minister George Howarth, a member of Labour’s ruling national executive, said the party had been far too slow to deal with “some appalling cases of antisemitism”.

Mr Howarth announced that former lord chancellor and Tony Blair ally, Lord Falconer, had offered his services to look at how Labour could deal more effectively with cases brought to the attention of the party.

Dame Margaret said she felt anguish because Ms Berger and Ms Ryan, both of whom had dedicated themselves to fighting antisemitism but felt they could no longer stay in the Labour Party.

Dame Margaret Hodge said she felt anguish over the resignations of Labour MPs
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Dame Margaret Hodge said she felt anguish over the resignations of Labour MPs

“This week, two Labour MPs quit the Labour party, mainly because they think the party is institutionally antisemitic,” she said.

“I understand and respect their decision and mourn their departure.”

But on her own future, Dame Margaret added: “I do not yet want to give up the fight for the heart and soul of a party I have worked for and with throughout my adult life.

“The leader of the Labour Party must really listen, must really understand and must really change.

“If he does not do so, he will be culpable for sabotaging the values that led to the creation of the Labour party and responsible for the withering away of a once great political force.”

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