Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has hit out over reported moves to “bully” a pregnant MP out of the party for calling for the sacking of left winger Chris Williamson.
Ellie Reeves was one of 121 MPs who last week signed a statement calling for the Labour whip to be withdrawn from Mr Williamson for saying the party was “too apologetic” about anti-Semitism.
A member of her local Lewisham West and Penge party in south London has since written to the constituency chairman calling for a vote of no confidence and the triggering of formal deselection proceedings.
The move comes just months after Luciana Berger – who faced a campaign of anti-Semitic abuse – quit the party following an attempt to oust her while she was expecting.
Labour sought to play down the move, saying no motion had actually been tabled or moved and the party member concerned had confirmed he did not intend to do so.
Mr Watson, who organised the statement demanding Mr Williamson’s removal from the parliamentary party, said such “reprehensible behaviour” could not be tolerated.
He called on the entire shadow cabinet to denounce the attempt to remove the MP while she was five months’ pregnant.
“A small group of members are trying to bully another pregnant MP out of the party,” he tweeted.
“This reprehensible behaviour cannot be tolerated. We will not accept bullying and threats in our ranks.
“The entire shadow cabinet will want to publicly condemn this too.”
He was backed by shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who tweeted: “My friend Ellie Reeves is a socialist, an ex-trade union lawyer who fought against injustices for working class people.
“She’s campaigned against oppression internationally, e.g. trade unionists in Colombia for years. An excellent MP.
“Ludicrous no confidence motion should be binned.”
She also received from the general secretary of the Unison trade union, Dave Prentis, who condemned what he said described as a “divisive and disgusting” attack.
Ms Reeves said she was “truly grateful” for the support she had received – including from “hundreds” of local party members and constituents.
Labour said no MP could face deselection proceedings while they were on parental leave.
“It would be wrong to bring a motion of no confidence against a pregnant MP who will soon be on maternity leave,” a party source said.
“No motion was ever moved or tabled. It was suggested by one member, within a CLP (Constituency Labour Party) with over 2,000 members, who has now confirmed he will not be moving any such motion.
“Motions of no confidence have no formal standing and do not result in trigger ballots.
“Any MP who is on parental leave will not undergo reselection processes while they are on leave.”
Mr Williamson – a strong supporter of Mr Corbyn – was readmitted to the party last week with a warning following a four-month suspension – only to be suspended again two days later following a furious outcry led by Mr Watson.
It followed a series of clashes between Mr Corbyn and the deputy leader, who has been leading demands for Labour to rethink its policy on Brexit and fully embrace a second referendum.