TOM Watson has urged Jeremy Corbyn to overhaul Labour’s rules so that anti-Semites are automatically kicked out of the party.

Speaking yesterday after a Panorama documentary on Wednesday night on the party’s handling of anti-Jewish abuse, the Labour deputy leader called on Corbyn to ensure the party could “auto-exclude” anyone with a “prima facie” case to answer. He also hit out at Labour for describing former staffers who spoke to the documentary team as “disaffected”.

Setting out his plans to get Labour out of its “mess” on anti-Semitism, Watson told the BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “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. This would be a completely independent process.”

He added: “I think we need a rule change – and this has been argued by others like Keir Starmer and Gordon Brown, that allows us to auto-exclude from membership people who have a prima facie case to answer of using anti-Semitic behaviours and language within our own structures. Our NEC [National Executive Committee] can agree this at its next meeting and we can change our rules in conference if there is the will.”

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In a direct message to the Labour leader he said: “Jeremy has the votes on our NEC. If he willed it it would happen. And it could happen at our next meeting and we could change the rules at our conference.”

Watson’s intervention came after Labour hit back at the hour-long documentary, which accused senior officials close to Corbyn of interfering in anti-Semitism complaints.

The programme heard testimony from former members of Labour’s disputes team, which investigates complaints against members, who claimed their mental health was affected by the attitude of aides in Corbyn’s office. Jewish party members also described how they had been subjected to abuse.

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Labour accused Panorama of bias and of misrepresenting evidence in an attempt to smear the party. A spokesman said: “The Panorama programme was not a fair or balanced investigation. It was a seriously inaccurate, politically one-sided polemic, which breached basic journalistic standards, invented quotes and edited emails to change their meaning. It was an overtly biased intervention by the BBC in party political controversy.”