A Labour MP has apologised after suggesting that seven former colleagues who broke away from Jeremy Corbyn’s party may have had Israeli backing.
High Peak MP Ruth George “unreservedly and wholeheartedly” apologised and said she had no intention of “invoking a conspiracy theory”.
The seven – including Jewish MP Luciana Berger – blamed Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism as one of their reasons for leaving.
Ms George acknowledged her comment had been “ill-thought out” and “poorly worded”.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “It’s right that Ruth George has apologised for these offensive remarks.
“The Whips Office is reminding Ruth George of the conduct expected of her.”
Ms George’s earlier Facebook comment, which was highlighted by her local Tory rivals, suggested that “support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour ‘Friends of Israel’ of which Luciana was chair is possible and I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group’s financial backers are not being revealed”.
“It’s important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy.”
Tory MP Simon Clarke said Ms George’s comments were “staggering”, adding: “All the lazy conflation of smears about Israel, Jewish MPs and those who dare to criticise the hideous state of the Labour Party (are) on display in full technicolour (sic).”
Ms George’s comment had been made in response to a request to condemn an activist who had labelled the breakaway MPs “Israelis”.
The MP said: “I would condemn the calling of anyone as an Israeli when it’s not the case.
“The comment appears not to refer to the independent MPs but to their financial backers.”
In her apology, Ms George said: “On my earlier response to a Facebook comment, I unreservedly and wholeheartedly apologise for my comment.
“I had no intention of invoking a conspiracy theory and I am deeply sorry that my ill-thought out and poorly worded comment did this. I withdraw it completely.”