LABOUR has suspended its MP Andy McDonald, claiming comments he made at a pro-Palestine rally were “deeply offensive”.

Mr McDonald, who will sit as an independent MP for Middlesbrough while an investigation takes place, used the phrase “between the river and the sea” in a speech during a demonstration at the weekend.

He said his choice of words was part of a wider “heartfelt plea for an end to the killings”.

But a Labour spokesman said: “The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising antisemitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety.

“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.”

Some pro-Palestinian protesters have chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” during recent demonstrations in London.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously branded the slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel, but pro-Palestinian protesters have contested this definition.

In a video shared by McDonald on X, formerly known as Twitter, of his speech at the rally, he said: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty.”

He went on to chant “free Palestine”, alongside the crowd.

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In a statement published on social media, McDonald said he was saddened to be suspended, but would co-operate fully with Labour’s investigation.

He said: “These words should not be construed in any other way than they were intended, namely as a heartfelt plea for an end to the killings in Israel, Gaza, and the occupied West Bank, and for all peoples in the region to live in freedom without the threat of violence.”

He went on: “I will be happy to explain these views to the investigation when it convenes, and trust that the whip will be restored.

“In the meantime, for the sake of humanity, I hope and pray that we see an end to the war in Gaza, and steps are taken towards a lasting peace.”

The suspension came as Downing Street said the Tory MP for Peterborough has been asked to leave his job as a parliamentary private secretary for breaking rank.