A Jewish Labour MP was in tears as she urged the leadership of her party to do more in tackling anti-semitism.
Ruth Smeeth made the emotional appeal during a meeting of Labour MPs that was held just hours after seven of her colleagues stepped down from the party, calling it institutionally anti-semitic and intolerant.
The Stoke North MP questioned Ian Lavery, the chairman of the Labour Party, regarding the reason why a party member had not been kicked out despite saying that she and Louise Ellman, a fellow Jewish MP, did not have “human blood.”
She demanded: “Explain to me how this is taking seriously, explain to me how this is zero tolerance.”
At the start of the meeting, Lavery delivered a sharp speech that set out why he believed that it was wrong for the seven MPs – Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shukar, Ann Coffey, Chuka Umunna, and Mike Gapes- to leave the party.
He concentrated on the electoral boost that a division on the left of politics could hand the Conservative party – a move that is described as a mistake by at least three MPs in the room.
In a speech after the meeting, Ian Austin, the Dudley North MP, stated: “If that’s the best the leadership can do it will make the problem worse.”
While the pressure was intensifying on those at the top of the Labour Party to change direction, it was also escalating on those who left the party to trigger by-elections to validate their move.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said that he was “disappointed” the seven had chosen to quit, however, he also called for new votes to take place in their constituencies.
He stated: “All of these MPs stood on our manifesto in 2017, Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto, they all increased their majorities, now they’re on a different platform so the honourable thing, the usual thing for them to do now, is to stand down and fight by-elections back in their constituencies.”
In a video statement,, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, delivered a sobering assessment over the reasons for the departure of the MPs. He warned that it was “a moment for regret and reflection not for a mood of anger or a tone of triumph.”
He stated: “There are those who are already celebrating the departure of colleagues with whom they disagree. The hard Left can be too easily tempted into the language of heresy and treachery.”
He added: “Betrayal narratives and shouting insults at the departed might make some feel better briefly but it does nothing to address the reasons that good colleagues might want to leave.”
Watson said that “time is short” for the party to get to grips with anti-semitism in the ranks “to keep others from leaving.”
He noted: “The identity of this party must be tolerant, multi-cultural, generous and welcoming. To put it mildly, we need to be kinder and gentler.”
A Labour MP said that he believed that the others who are considering leaving were waiting to see if the departure of the seven provoked a change in direction from the leadership, with the position of the party on a second Brexit vote that was cited as a litmus test.