Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has retweeted a call for Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson to quit after he publicly attacked the party’s General Secretary, Jennie Formby.
The call was backed up by Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, who described Watson at the Durham Miners Gala on Saturday as a ‘f……. disgrace’.
Formby was witch-hunted in last Wednesday’s edition of the BBC’s Panorama programme, which accused the Corbyn leadership of covering up alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Abbott retweeted remarks by Claudia Webbe, who sits on the party’s ruling body and heads its disputes panel, who said: ‘@tom_watson you’re engaged in public attacks on the Labour Party’s General Secretary @JennieGenSec despite your clear knowledge she is receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer. This is not behaviour befitting of the Office of Deputy Leader. You should consider your position?’
A series of retweets by Abbott all highlighted Labour colleagues defending Formby against Watson and referred to her ongoing treatment for cancer.
Last Wednesday night’s BBC Panorama documentary alleged Formby and director of communications Seumas Milne intervened in particular cases of alleged anti-Semitism.
Labour has condemned the programme as one-sided and has complained to the BBC.
Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the Durham Miners Gala on Saturday, said: ‘The programme adopted a predetermined position on its own website before it was broadcast,’ adding that it contained ‘many, many inaccuracies’.
Formby hit out at Watson for ‘traducing my reputation’ while she has chemotherapy.
The row between Formby and Watson ignited after he said the Panorama documentary had made him feel ‘shocked’ and ‘chilled’.
He wrote an open letter to her claiming 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 claimed.
The Labour Party has condemned last Wednesday’s BBC Panorama programme as inaccurate and described accusations of anti-Semitism as having been made by ‘disaffected’ former staff.
Two of the former Labour Party employees who attacked the Corbyn leadership in the BBC programme have since said that they are taking legal action against the party.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry’s response to the witch-hunt was equivocal yesterday.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that she found the Panorama episode ‘awful’ – both the programme itself and ‘more importantly the revelations’.
She said she understood the party had concerns about how the investigation was done, but added: ‘I think that we shouldn’t be going for the messengers, we should be looking at the message. I think that is what is important.’
Labour has rejected claims of interference in its disciplinary processes and has described the Panorama programme as ‘seriously inaccurate’ and ‘politically one-sided’.
In a statement, it said: ‘Since Jennie Formby became general secretary the rate at which anti-Semitism cases have been dealt with has increased more than fourfold.
‘We will build on the improvements to our procedures made under Jennie Formby, and continue to act against this repugnant form of racism.’