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TOM WATSON said Labour members attempting to hold party grandees to account were guilty of “misdirected mob justice” after a CLP called for a peer to be expelled for signing a denunciation of party leader Jeremy Corbyn that was published in the Guardian.
Labour peer Hilary Armstrong was one of nearly 70 Lords and party members who last week accused Jeremy Corbyn of having “failed the test of leadership” over the handling of anti-semitism allegations within the party.
They did this by taking out a full-page £18,000 advert in the Guardian following a controversial BBC Panorama documentary that was condemned as a “dishonest hatchet job” by director Ken Loach.
North West Durham constituency Labour party (CLP) passed an emergency motion during its annual general meeting on Friday calling for Ms Armstrong — who was a chief whip under Tony Blair’s leadership — to be expelled by Labour’s national executive committee.
Mr Watson said: “These attempts to silence dissent will fail.” He has previously called for the automatic expulsion of members without due process where there is undefined “clear evidence” that they hold unacceptable views.
Ms Armstrong succeeded her father Ernest as MP for North West Durham in 1987 until she stood down in 2010.
She said she was “very sad” to have learned of the CLP’s decision.
But in 2004, under Mr Blair’s leadership, it was reported by the Telegraph that she had been part of planning “show trials” for rebellious Labour MPs which could have led to their deselection.
The news came a year after 84 Labour MPs voted against Mr Blair’s invasion of Iraq and shortly after 28 rebelled over proposals to stop benefits for failed asylum-seekers and take their children into care if the families refused to leave.
The Telegraph cited a “senior Labour figure” who named Mr Corbyn, John McDonnell, Lynne Jones, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Diane Abbott and Mike Wood as the party’s six most rebellious MPs.
The deselection plan was acknowledged by Ms Armstrong two years ago on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.
In response to the CLP vote a Labour Party spokesman said: “The vote has no formal standing, only the party’s national constitutional committee has the power to expel.”
He said that North West Durham MP Laura Pidcock was not involved in the motion and abstained.
The shadow cabinet will hold a special meeting tomorrow to discuss anti-semitism, after which Mr Corbyn is expected to address the Parliamentary Labour Party.
He could face a vote of no confidence this week by Labour peers, who will decide whether to take the action at a meeting today, and could begin voting as early as tomorrow.
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