Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not intervene to stop confidence votes targeting his critics, as one of the party’s newest MPs faced censure for attending an anti-Semitism rally.
Mr Corbyn addressed the Parliamentary Labour Party after it was revealed Rosie Duffield, who has held Canterbury since last year’s general election, faces a censure motion for attending March’s protest outside Parliament.
It follows no confidence votes against Labour Friends of Israel chairwoman Joan Ryan, a former minister under Tony Blair, Luton South MP Gavin Shuker and Nottingham East MP Chris Leslie.
Those votes had prompted MP Chuka Umunna to urge Mr Corbyn to “call off the dogs” to stop centre-left MPs being driven out of the party.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said he had told the PLP on Monday that “it is not his place to be involved in the democratic practices of different parts of the Labour Party”.
He added: “He was making the point that everybody is subject to democratic accountability. It’s not his role to interfere with that.
“But obviously these things have to be conducted properly and thoroughly and without abuse and Jeremy reiterated… that our politics is conducted with respect and without abuse of any kind.”
Asked specifically about the case of Ms Duffield, who has a majority of just 187 in her Kent seat, the spokesman reiterated that “it’s not his role to become involved in the decision or votes of local CLPs”.
It risked stoking the already inflammatory row within the party over anti-Semitism after a summer of arguments culminated in votes against several of his long-standing critics.
After the PLP meeting, Ms Duffield said on Twitter: “Overwhelmed by the support I’ve received today.
“Thank you so much to all who’ve been in touch or tweeted.
“Luckily, this tiny group of members do not represent my wonderful CLP as a whole and they weren’t able to ruin my last day spent with my eldest son before he leaves for Uni.”
She was backed by senior colleagues including former work and pensions secretary Yvette Copper, who said she was a “brilliant MP”.
She added on Twitter: “Can’t believe any party members wd want to target her rather than Tories @RosieDuffield1 so spectacularly but narrowly defeated in #Canterbury & certainly not over her challenge to antisemitism which Jeremy, NEC & Shad Cab have all committed to tackling.”
Former frontbencher Mr Umunna branded the party “institutionally racist” at the weekend over its handling of the anti-Semitism row.
Having been linked with plans for a breakaway centrist party, he vowed to stay on as a Labour member because he felt it was better to “try and argue and see change through in an organisation” rather than “leave the field”.
His use of the phrase “call off the dogs” was attacked by Corbyn supporters, with chairman Ian Lavery saying the call was “disrespectful” and “offensive”.