Jeremy Corbyn has said there can be “no excuse” for abuse as he praised the bravery of MPs who spoke out about the anti-Semitic attacks they have suffered.
A series of Labour MPs spoke in the Commons about the abuse they had received from people who purported to be supporters of Mr Corbyn.
In an emotional Commons debate, Luciana Berger said Labour must expel those with anti-Semitic views, and criticised people who attacked her for speaking out on the issue while claiming to be both party members and supporters of the #JC4PM – Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister – campaign.
A standing ovation – in defiance of parliamentary convention – followed Ruth Smeeth’s speech, in which the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North read a sample of the abuse aimed at her and insisted: “Enough really is enough.”
Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge was applauded after a speech in which she said it felt as if her party hasd “given permission for anti-Semitism to go unchallenged”, while John Mann said he had been targeted by campaign group Momentum for showing solidarity with Jewish Labour members – with his wife “threatened with rape” by a “leftist anti-Semite”.
Mr Corbyn responded to the debate on Twitter, saying the “harrowing experiences” shared in the Commons showed the “urgent need to eradicate anti-Semitism from politics and society”.
But he made no explicit reference to the concerns raised by Labour MPs about problems within the party.
He said: “I pay tribute to MPs who spoke in yesterday’s anti-Semitism debate, whose harrowing experiences remind us of the urgent need to eradicate anti-Semitism from politics and society.
“There is no excuse for abuse of any kind, and I want to thank them for their bravery in speaking out.”
During Tuesday’s debate, Ms Berger (Liverpool Wavertree) and other MPs backed calls to expel Ken Livingstone from the Labour Party, with former minister Ian Austin saying the ex-London mayor had been “comparing, claiming that Hitler was a Zionist” – labelling this as anti-Semitism “pure and simple”.
Ms Berger was also applauded by MPs from all sides after she detailed the anti-Semitic abuse she has faced, which she said began when she was 19 and described her as a “dirty Zionist pig”.
Following Ms Berger’s speech, Ms Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North) could be seen crying and was comforted by party colleague Wes Streeting (Ilford North).
In her own speech, Ms Smeeth read out abuse before saying: “I stand here today to say that we will not be bullied out of political engagement, we are going nowhere and we stand and will keep fighting until the evils of anti-Semitism have been removed from our society.”
Mr Corbyn was in the Commons for large parts of the debate, with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid accusing the Labour leader of a “deeply worrying lack of leadership and moral clarity” on anti-Semitism.