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Corbyn refuses to step in as centre-left MPs targeted by no confidence votes

The Labour leader said it would be ‘wrong’ to ‘intervene in the democratic rights’ of the party.

Jeremy Corbyn has refused to intervene to stop votes of no confidence targeting centre-left party MPs despite a plea for him to “call off the dogs”.

The Labour leader said it would be “wrong for me to intervene in the democratic rights” of any wing of the party when he addressed its Westminster group on Monday night.

It risked stoking an already inflammatory row within the party over anti-Semitism after several of his critics were targeted in votes by local members.

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Joan Ryan (Katie Collins/PA)

Labour Friends of Israel chairwoman Joan Ryan, a former minister under Tony Blair, and Luton South MP Gavin Shuker both lost local no confidence votes on Thursday.

They were followed by Nottingham East MP Chris Leslie.

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Gavin Shuker (John Stilwell/PA)

Addressing the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) Mr Corbyn was due to say he wanted the party to remain a “broad church”, but added: “I know what it feels like to be the target of a no confidence vote but it would be wrong for me to intervene in the democratic rights of any part of the Labour Party.”

He faced MPs at Westminster after a former frontbencher branded the party “institutionally racist” over its handling of the anti-Semitism row.

Chuka Umunna, who has been linked with plans for a breakaway centrist party, 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”.

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Chuka Umunna (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Streatham MP made his comments to Sky after being urged to apologise for saying Mr Corbyn should “call off the dogs” to stop centre-left MPs being driven out of the party.

His use of the phrase was attacked by Corbyn supporters, with chairman Ian Lavery telling the channel the call was “disrespectful” and “offensive”.

Mr Corbyn was also due to tell the PLP: “We will always have some differences of opinion and we must protect the right of criticism and debate, but our first and overwhelming priority is to deliver for the people we represent and remove this Conservative Government from office.

“We must focus on that priority and turn our fire outwards.”

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