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Labour’s general secretary has defended her absence from a parliamentary party meeting on antisemitism and warned MPs against attacking staff dealing with the crisis. Jennie Formby wrote to MPs on Tuesday night in response to a letter by several MPs expressing their anger that no one from the party leadership had taken questions at Monday night’s meeting about the news that the party had investigated 673 cases of alleged antisemitism and expelled 12 members.

Formby, who released the figures to MPs before the meeting, said she had made it clear early on to John Cryer, the secretary of the parliamentary Labour party, that she could not attend.

“I absolutely reject the suggestion in the letter that the leadership of the party has ignored the views of the PLP,” Formby wrote. “The constant and often public criticism of our dedicated and talented staff team is unacceptable and is causing them considerable distress.”

Formby hit back specifically at a claim made by the MP Margaret Hodge which cast doubt on the figures, saying she alone had submitted a dossier of 200 examples of antisemitism.