Suspended Labour MP to sue Tory who said he ‘sought to justify’ Hamas attack

An MP who has been suspended by Labour over what the party said were “deeply offensive” comments at a pro-Palestine rally is threatening legal action against a Tory MP over a “highly defamatory” accusation that he sought to “justify” Hamas’s murderous attack on Israel.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said he was “not prepared to stand by” while Chris Clarkson or others “peddle the lie” that he sought to justify Hamas’s actions on October 7.

Mr McDonald was suspended by Labour earlier this week after he used the phrase “between the river and the sea” in a speech during a demonstration.

A slogan used by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, has been described as antisemitic by critics, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman claiming that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel.

Mr McDonald, who is sitting as an independent MP while an investigation takes place, denied he was promoting the view Israel should not exist and said he was calling for a two-state solution.

His complaint on Thursday centred on a tweet by Mr Clarkson that read: “‘Between the River and the Sea’ is a deeply sinister antisemitic trope – seeing a Labour MP use it whilst seeking to justify the murderous actions of Hamas should be shocking. Sadly, it’s barely surprising.”

Mr McDonald said: “Mr Clarkson’s statement is highly defamatory and caused serious harm to my reputation.

“I am not prepared to stand by, while an MP or others peddle the lie that I have sought to justify the actions of Hamas on October 7 2023, including the awful murder of 1,400 people in Israel.

“Much of what I have said in the last few days about the recent events in Israel and Palestine has been deliberately distorted and misinterpreted…

“I am more than prepared to sue anyone who thinks that it is acceptable to publish lies about me.”

He has instructed his solicitors to “take the first steps in commencing legal proceedings against Mr Clarkson by sending him a letter of claim for libel”, he added.

Speaking to Newsnight, Mr McDonald said he did not need to apologise for using the phrase in his October 28 speech to a mass rally.

“I used those words to calibrate and move the debate in the direction of peace and a two-state solution,” he told the BBC programme.

Mr McDonald has said he would fully co-operate with the investigation into his suspension and trusted “that the whip will be restored”.

Conservative MP Paul Bristow was sacked from his job as a ministerial aide at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology after urging Rishi Sunak to back a full ceasefire.