Deep divisions tearing at the Labour Party mean it is destined for general election disaster, MPs and activists revealed at an explosive meeting.
Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, warned “self-inflicted wounds” over Brexit and “hollow” leadership on anti-Semitism will hand victory to the Conservatives in any snap poll.
Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow ministers know “in their heart of hearts” the party faces electoral oblivion, Streeting added, amid reports that Boris Johnson is plotting a snap general election should he be crowned prime minister next week.
The Times reported on Tuesday night that Johnson wanted to fight an election “while Jeremy Corbyn is still around” because Labour was in no fit state to win.
Streeting told the meeting of MPs and activists from the centre-left group Labour First, held in Westminster, that Corbyn had been “a primary driver” of the party’s “anti-Semitism problem”, adding: “Although I am an eternal optimist, I do not believe that JC is capable, morally or intellectually, of addressing this problem.”
He later added shadow cabinet ministers “understand in their heart of hearts that the Corbyn project is hollow and moribund and is damaging our party”.
He picked out shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis, who had recently criticised the “conspiratorial nature of the politics of anti-Semitism on the left”.
Streeting said Labour’s left-wing MPs should be challenged more, adding: ″I genuinely think that there are lots of MPs who sit at the shadow cabinet table or who stand up at the despatch box as shadow minister who know in their heart of hearts that we are being led by a hollow prospect that is destined to lose a general election.”
Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, meanwhile, accused Corbyn allies of “weaponising” Labour general secretary Jennie Formby’s cancer diagnosis to block criticism over the anti-Semitism crisis as she took aim at senior aides.
“Jeremy Corbyn has been for me the worst and the weakest leader of the Labour Party in all our 118 years,” she said.
“Every day that Seumas Milne is devising our strategy, every day that [Unite boss] Len McCluskey is dictating our politics, every day that they are all refusing to stand up against anti-Semitism, Boris Johnson will sleep soundly in Number 10.”
A BBC Panorama investigation last week showed interviews with a number of Labour staff turned whistleblowers, who accused Formby and communications chief Milne of interfering with the complaints process.
Hodge, who is Jewish, read out a string of anti-Semitic messages she had been sent in recent days, which included an accusation she was part of an “Israeli lobby”, someone writing “piss off, you old zionist Jew” and one asking “do you still have shares in family’s billionaires’ company that sold Jews out to the Nazis”.
The campaigning MP repeated her call for an independent body to investigate anti-Semitism complaints as the party’s was now “completely corrupted by political interference”.
“I think what they have been so dreadful about Jennie Formby around is that they are weaponising her illness in this,” said Hodge, after deputy leader Tom Watson hit out at party chiefs over the handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
“It’s a moral issue. It’s not us weaponising her. It’s not Tom Watson, it’s them.”
Hodge said there is a “culture of nepotism” in the party which had become “really dangerous” as people were hired on the “basis of how loyal they are to the Corbyn clan”, as she accused Corbyn of peddling “recycled and unreconstructed policies from the 1970s”.
She said: “I want a Labour Party that brings honesty and integrity back into politics. No more crazy promises. No more unrealistic bribes and in an era of scepticism about politics and politicians this is not a way to go about it.”
Streeting underlined that he saw those who are in power in Labour, who had failed to criticise Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism, as “complicit” in damaging the party’s prospects.
“With a few notable exceptions, those people have either been disappointingly silent and therefore complicit or actively engaged in this spin campaign against whistleblowers.
“This is not a question of left and right, it is a simple question of right and wrong.”