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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

Seven Labour MPs quit the party claiming it's 'institutionally anti-semitic' and run by 'the machine of the hard left'

The MPs stopped short of forming a new party and will now sit in parliament as The Independent Group.

Labour MP Luciana Berger announcing her resignation from Labour.
Labour MP Luciana Berger announcing her resignation from Labour.

A NUMBER OF UK Labour MPs are to quit the party, citing disaffection with the party’s leadership, its position on Brexit and its response to anti-semitism.

The seven breakaway MPs confirmed their split from the party this morning, speaking under the banner of The Independent Group.

The MPs leaving are Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey.

There had been speculation they were to set up a new party but today said they would sit in parliament as an independent grouping.

The group spoke to the media after saying they would be making an announcement “relating to the future of British politics” at 10am.

Speaking first, Berger said that she had become “embarrassed and ashamed to be in the Labour Party”.

Berger is parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement and said that the party had become “institutionally anti-semitic”.

She said that the decision taken by all the departing members was “a very difficult, painful but necessary decision.”

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Chris Leslie MP echoed that the decision was “not an easy one for any of us” but that said that the party is no longer representative of his views.

“We did everything we could to save it, but it has now been hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left”, he said, adding that “British politics is now well and truly broken”.

On Brexit, Leslie said that: “the evidence of Labour’s betrayal on Europe is no visible for all to see”.

Offering to actually enable this government’s Brexit. Constantly holding back from allowing the public a final say. Conference policy has been cast aside, no guarantee to ensure participation in the single-market anymore. No exact same benefits. No movement towards a People’s Vote.

“The past three years have confirmed how irresponsible it would be to allow this leader of the opposition to take the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,” he added.

Labour local government conference - Coventry Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Source: PA Images

Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015, there have been near-constant rumours that some MPs were planning to split from the party.

Despite support from grassroots Labour member that saw him comfortably survive a leadership challenge from in 2016, he has struggled to maintain authority among MPs.

His perceived lack of leadership during the Brexit referendum, when Labour was campaigning for Remain, was sharply criticised by some MPs and Brexit has now proved the catalyst for this latest departure.

Labour’s performance in the 2017 general election, when Corbyn’s party increased its vote share and number of seats, had quelled rebellion against him.

In a series of tweets this morning after the members confirmed their departure, Corbyn made reference to that vote.

“I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945,” he said.

Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change.

“The Tories are bungling Brexit while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan. When millions face the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness and poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all.”

Corbyn has long been critical of the EU and under his leadership the party’s position is to honour the June 2016 vote to leave.

Some within his party had urged Corbyn to throw his support behind the push for a second referendum but he instead he remained focus was on forcing an election.

Earlier this month, Corbyn accepted an offer from Prime Minister Theresa May to talks about Brexit, stating that some elements of her proposed Withdrawal Agreement must change for Labour to support it.

May ultimately dismissed Corbyn’s call for the UK to form some form of customs union with the EU.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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