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MPs condemn Boris Johnson for his 'despicable act of cowardice' over ambassador – live news

The day’s political developments, including Tom Watson’s intervention after BBC Panorama report on Labour and antisemitismWestminster bullying and harassment is ‘significant problem’Labour whistleblower: ‘In 30 years I’ll be very proud of myselfPanorama set out claims of antisemitism in Labour. Our panel responds 12.29pm BST In an interview for today’s Sun Boris Johnson rejected suggestions that he contributed to Sir Kim Darroch’s decision to resign by not backing him in the ITV debate on Tuesday. Johnson told the paper:I can’t believe they’re trying to blame me for this.It seems bizarre to me. I’m a great supporter of Kim’s. I worked very well with him for years.Why did he not voice more support for Kim Darroch in Tuesday night’s TV debate? “No, I did,” Johnson protests. “I said I believe very strongly that civil servants should not have their views leaked.” But you didn’t say you’d keep him in his job, I tell him. “No, but I think it’s totally, totally wrong to drag the career prospects of a civil servant into a political debate,” Johnson says. But maybe people want to see a leader sticking up for their own side? “I made it very clear that under no circumstances would anybody else take a decision about who is going to represent the U.K. I was absolutely categorical about that. And for the record I am a long-standing admirer of Kim Darroch. And I say furthermore that if Donald Trump can make friends with Kim Jong Un, then he can make friends with Kim Dar-roch.” 12.07pm BST Towards the end of the urgent question on Kim Darroch the Conservative MP David Morris said Boris Johnson should apologise for not supporting Darroch in the ITV debate on Tuesday. He said:It is incumbent on every member of parliament in this place to back up our excellent diplomats and civil servants and [Johnson] should come to the house and apologise. Continue reading...

Yesterday we started the morning with a former Conservative party leader and prime minister, Sir John Major, saying that he could take legal action against the man likely to be the next party leader and PM, Boris Johnson, over proroguing parliament. The Tory party is clearly not a happy ship. But Labour is also extraordinarily divided, and we saw that this morning when the Today programme 8.10 slot was devoted to Tom Watson, the deputy leader, launching a whole series of complaints about how the party is dealing with antisemitism under its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The interview was triggered by the reporting in last night’s hour-long Panorama documentary about Labour and antisemitism. Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker’s story about the programme is here.

This is a long-running and highly contentious issue not least because allegations of antisemitism are inextricably entwined with two other themes. The first is anti-Israelism. Corbyn and his circle are undoubtedly anti-Israel, and a lot of this debate is really about at what point hostility towards the state of Israel becomes antisemitism. (At some point it certainly feels like antisemitism to Jews.) You could call this anti-Zionism, but that is not a particularly helpful term because Zionism means different things to different people. And the second is anti-Corbynism. There is an undoubted overlap between those in Labour who speak out most against the party’s record on antisemitism and those who are critical of Corbyn generally, but that does not mean their complaints are contrived or insincere. For some, the antisemitism issue helps to explain their anti-Corbynism.

Here are the main points from Tom Watson’s interview.

  • Watson strongly criticised his own party for dismissing the former staffers who spoke out in the Panorama programme as “disaffected” ex-employees with “axes to grind”. Watson said that claim was “false”. He went on:

I deplore the statement that was made about those people last night. You couldn’t fail to be saddened and moved by the testimony, particularly of the young members who’d had racist abuse in party meetings and on social media. And there was an array of young and old former members of staff from different wings of the party who I think showed great courage to speak out in the way they did ... To speak out about the party they love must have taken a great act of courage and to dismiss their testimony as in some way flawed I think was wrong.

In a statement issued late yesterday afternoon the Labour press office, which like the rest of the party machinery is under the control of the Corbyn faction in the party, not people like Watson, said:

It appears these disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind. This throws into doubt their credibility as sources.

Interestingly, the long statement issued by the party press office after the Panorama was broadcast did not repeat this criticism of the interviewees.

  • Watson complained there was a perception of “almost a permissive culture” towards antisemitism in the party. He said:

In the last four years, since Jeremy and I were elected leader and deputy leader of the party, there is a growing belief that there is a sickness in our party, that this kind of abuse has been in some way allowed. That there’s almost a permissive culture that people can use anti-Jewish, racist language both in our meetings and to each other on social media and we’ve failed to address that properly.

  • Watson called for a rule change to “auto-exclude” party members against whom there was a prima facie case to answer about using antisemitic language or behaviour. He said:

I think we need to change the way we investigate these systems.

Not casting aspersions on the current people, but I think we need to take these cases away from them and have a full, independent system of investigating cases of anti-Jewish racism that involves representatives from the Jewish community of Britain of standing...

I think we need a rule change - and this has been argued by others like Keir Starmer [here] and Gordon Brown - that allows us to auto-exclude from the membership people who have a prima facie case to answer of using antisemitic behaviours and language within our own structures.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

10am: A new report on sexual intimidation and bullying of staff working in the House of Commons is published.

11am: Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, holds a press conference following the publication of the bank’s financial stability report. My colleague Graeme Wearden will be covering it on his business live blog.

As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to publish a summary at lunchtime and then another when I finish.

You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe roundup of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

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