Pro-Israel MP in tweet row


Veteran Labour MP Ivan Lewis has accused a party backbencher of "manipulating" internal party politics.

Mr Lewis, the Shadow Northern Ireland minister and a former vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, appeared to claim Tom Watson had tried to influence the selection process for a new Scottish Labour leader.

Mr Watson wrote an article for the Sunday Herald newspaper warning against Scottish campaign favourite Jim Murphy. There has already been criticism of Mr Murphy in Scotland over his support for Israel.

Mr Lewis, who is Jewish and served as Middle East Minister in the last Labour government, posted a tweet, not addressed to Mr Watson, which said it was "essential that Scots decide best person to be leader of Scottish Labour. Others interfering not in the interests of the Labour Party".

West Bromwich East MP Mr Watson responded by stating "presumably you'd rather they quietly elect your candidate", a message to which Mr Lewis replied saying: "I want party to choose leaders in an open democratic way. Your problem is this is one leadership election you can't manipulate".

When Mr Watson asked which leadership election he was being accused of manipulating, Mr Lewis would not elaborate, but added: "Point is that I was not prepared to let you do it again without challenging you. Some of us have remained silent for too long."

Observers said the spat highlighted Labour's internal tussle over the party's future direction. Mr Watson's preferred candidate in Scotland is left-wing MSP Neil Findlay. Mr Murphy, a leading LFI supporter, is seen as a right-wing, Blairite candidate.

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