MPs pile pressure on Corbyn to suspend Shawcroft from Labour's governing body

A group of Labour politicians have urged Jeremy Corbyn to suspend former disputes panel chairwoman Christine Shawcroft amid an ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the party.

Some 39 MPs and peers have signed an open letter calling for Ms Shawcroft to be suspended from the National Executive Committee (NEC).

Lead signatory of the letter, MP for Mitcham and Morden Siobhain McDonagh, told the BBC the group felt "very strongly" about the issue.

Ms Shawcroft was forced to stand down from her position on the disputes panel on Wednesday, and said she was "wrong and misguided" to have sent an email calling for a council candidate in Peterborough to have his suspension lifted.

Labour sources said the controversy centred on Alan Bull, who was suspended from the party last week after he was accused of being responsible for anti-Semitic posts on social media. He has said they were "doctored screenshots", according to reports.

Siobhain McDonagh told the BBC the group who had signed the letter felt
Siobhain McDonagh told the BBC the group who had signed the letter felt

Ms Shawcroft said: "I sent this email before being aware of the full information about this case and I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post. Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so."

Shadow chancellor John McDonell later said it was right that Ms Shawcroft had quit the post, but said she did not need to also resign from the NEC.

Asked if she should step down from the ruling body, he told Sky News: "Well, no. Jeremy has asked her to stand down as the chair of the disputes committee."

He added: "She's not at the head of that committee (the NEC). It is an elected position and it is up to the electorate to decide whether or not she should be elected again."

However, the letter, also signed by MPs including Mike Gapes and Luciana Berger, said it was "highly offensive to the Jewish community" that Ms Shawcroft remained a member of the NEC.

Mr Gapes said on Twitter: "Time for action. Not just words."

After a wave of anti-Semitic controversies rocked Labour in recent months, Mr Corbyn pledged to do more to deal with the situation as he acknowledged the problem was not just a matter of a "few bad apples".

On Thursday night, the Labour leader was criticised by a Labour peer for not contacting him after he said Mr Corbyn was shown an anti-Semitic email he received.

Lord Levy said that the Labour leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon, showed Mr Corbyn the abusive message on Wednesday night, but he heard nothing back on the issue.

Lord Levy (Max Nash/PA)
Lord Levy (Max Nash/PA)

The email received by Lord Levy read: "I see that you dare to criticise Labour leader. Who the hell are you to comment on Jeremy Corbyn?

"You are just another Jewish pig, bloodsucker living on taxpayers' money. What are you doing in this country anyway?

"Why don't you piss off to Israel? We don't need Jewish bastards like you in this country."

Lord Levy told BBC2's Newsnight that he did not know if the email was from a supporter of Mr Corbyn, adding: "But, I know that Jeremy was shown this email last night."

The peer questioned why Mr Corbyn had not condemned the email and accused Mr Corbyn of not taking anti-Semitism seriously enough.

"There has to be a zero tolerance policy. Enough words. They are just not taking this seriously. I have never received such a disgusting email," he said.

A Labour source told the Press Association: "Jeremy was shown some text on someone's phone for a matter of seconds when he was on his way to vote.

"Of course, if something so serious had been raised with Jeremy in more than a passing way for a few seconds he would have been able to engage with it, and would, of course, have acted."

Lord Levy said he had reported the email to the police.

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