Seven Labour MPs resign from party to form independent group

Labour MP Luciana Berger announces her resignation. Photo: PA

Latest: Seven Labour Party MPs have resigned from the party this morning to form a new independent group.

The Independent Group says its aim is to "reach across outdated divides and build consensus" on the challenges facing Britain.

Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey are among the MPs from the party’s centrist wing who have been the loudest critics of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, his stance on Brexit and his handling of allegations of anti-Semitism.

They issued an appeal to MPs from both Labour and other parties to “leave the old tribal politics behind” and join their new grouping.

In a Statement,of Independence, setting out their values and approach, they promised to “pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the parties’ interests”.

None of the current political parties in Westminster “are fit to provide the leadership and direction needed by our country”, they said.

And they pledged: “As an Independent Group we aim to recognise the value of healthy debate, show tolerance towards different opinions and seek to reach across outdated divides and build consensus to tackle Britain’s problems.”

At a press conference at London’s County Hall to announce their move, Mr Umunna issued an appeal to voters: “For far too long, political parties in Westminster – parties of which we have been a part – have been failing you.

“If you are sick and tired of politics as usual, guess what? So are we.

“If you want an alternative, please help us build it. The bottom line is this – politics is broken, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s change it.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Labour MP Chuka Umunna announces his resignation from the party (Stefan Rousseau/PA)</figcaption>
Labour MP Chuka Umunna announces his resignation from the party (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Leslie – a former shadow chancellor – said that Labour had been “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left”, while Ms Berger said she had come to the “sickening” conclusion that the party is now “institutionally anti-Semitic”.

Mr Corbyn said he was “disappointed” at their decision.

“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,” said the Labour leader in a statement.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London (PA/Georgina Stubbs)</figcaption>
Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London (PA/Georgina Stubbs)

“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 Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan. When millions are facing 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.”

Earlier: Several Labour MPs ‘to quit party’ over Brexit and anti-semitism

Speculation is mounting that several Labour MPs in the UK could be about to quit the party.

Key figures believed to be on the verge of leaving did not respond to requests for comment.

Former shadow cabinet minister Owen Smith said he was “not commenting” on the rumours, linked to anger over how the party is dealing with Brexit and allegations of anti-Semitism.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour on Sunday: “The talk has been going on so long that I say with great regret that yes, there probably will be some kind of splintering.

“It just seems to have been in the rumour mill so long that it’s unlikely that wouldn’t be the outcome.”

On Sunday morning, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he did not see “any need for anybody to split from the party”.

Mr McDonnell also revealed Labour would “look at” a proposal put forward by backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson to back a second Brexit referendum in the next round of Brexit votes on February 27.

In all good conscience, I can no longer justify paying subs to a party which I now regard as institutionally anti-Semitic

Former Labour vice-chairman Michael Dugher said at the weekend that he is intending to leave the party, saying he regards it as “institutionally anti-Semitic”.

Mr Dugher, who was elected as MP for Barnsley East in 2010 and left Parliament in May 2017, claimed the party he joined nearly three decades ago “no longer exists”.

He served as vice chairman of the party under Ed Miliband between 2011 and 2014 and later became shadow secretary for transport and culture.

Labour disclosed last week it had received 673 allegations of anti-Semitism by its members over the past 10 months, leading to 12 individuals being expelled.

Writing in the Sun on Sunday, Mr Dugher said the Labour Party had repeatedly failed to “adequately tackle anti-Semitism”.

The now chief executive of UK Music said: “I will continue to have lots of dear friends in the Labour Party, including many talented MPs and hard-working local councillors who are fantastically dedicated public servants.

“Yet in all good conscience, I can no longer justify paying subs to a party which I now regard as institutionally anti-Semitic.”

- Press Association and Digital Desk

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