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Labour suspends activist Vicki Kirby amid 'anti-Semitism' controversy

A Labour activist at the centre of an anti-Semitism row has been suspended from the party while allegations are investigated.

Vicki Kirby was probed by the party in 2014 after a series of posts on Twitter in which she apparently suggested Adolf Hitler might be a "Zionist God" and Jews had "big noses".

However, Ms Kirby was subsequently reinstated with a warning and it emerged this week that she had been appointed vice-chairman of Labour's Woking branch.

A Labour Party spokeswoman said she was now being investigated again, adding: "Vicki Kirby has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation."

Labour previously said Ms Kirby could not be re-investigated over any of the issues that had been dealt with in the past.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn has stressed that the party's National Executive Committee is in charge of the process, and the leader had " no involvement".

Posting on Twitter, Labour backbencher Wes Streeting said the suspension was "better late than never".

The row came after shadow cabinet minister Luciana Berger was subjected to a volley of hate messages on Twitter for posting that she was attending a global anti-Semitism conference in Berlin.

Ms Berger - previously the subject of a 2014 campaign of abuse that led to one man being jailed - posted examples of the latest messages as "a reminder of why it's necessary".

Mr Corbyn condemned the behaviour towards Ms Berger as "vile".

Labour's candidate for Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin McKeever, said he had asked police to examine Ms Kirby's comments.

"Following complaint to @SurreyPolice I've contacted @UKLabour to request Vicki Kirby be suspended from Labour pending police investigation," he said shortly before the suspension was announced.

Mr Streeting told the Press Association: "I am only sorry it has taken the intervention of a number of MPs and resignations by party members.

"At this stage I think Jeremy Corbyn needs to answer some serious questions about the effectiveness of Labour's NEC on these issues."

The Ilford North MP said the situation was not about Mr Corbyn or his leadership, as the original decisions were taken when Ed Miliband was in charge of the party.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham told the BBC's Daily Politics: "We have to maintain full public confidence in our procedures and I want there to be no question at all that our party has no tolerance at all of any form of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or any other kind of racism."

Labour MP Angela Smith welcomed the suspension but said "the evidence is accumulating" of a problem within the party ranks and urged Mr Corbyn to speak out more publicly.

"Any right-minded individual would recognise those comments as utterly sickening and totally unacceptable," she told BBC Radio 4's The World At One of Ms Kirby's Tweets.

"We need to be really robust about this, both in terms of how we operate our rule book and also about the culture of the party. We all have a responsibility to confront it and deal with it.

"This is not about the left or the right of the Labour Party; this is about basic human decency. Anti-Semitism is dangerous and it just can't be tolerated."

She said: "I think Jeremy could do more. Jeremy needs to come out now and say, absolutely, publicly, that he will not tolerate this in the party.

"He has said it privately at the Parliamentary Labour Party last night. I think he needs to come out and say it."

Labour former cabinet minister Lord Mandelson told the programme: "99% of the Labour Party would have no truck whatsoever with anti-Semitism and if there are 1% that are going in that direction then they need to be confronted and, if needs be, stamped out of the party.

"If they are expressing views and taking positions that are simply incompatible with the values and the principles that the Labour Party holds dear then they don't belong in the Labour Party."

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