Tony Blair ‘Staying In The Labour Party’ Despite ‘Courageous’ TIG Breakaway

Tony Blair: Tony Blair says he is staying in the Labour Party despite having a "great deal of sympathy" with breakaway MPs.
Tony Blair says he is staying in the Labour Party despite having a “great deal of sympathy” with breakaway MPs.

Tony Blair: “I am staying in the Labour Party”; says he is ‘deeply concerned’ about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – Rachel Wearmouth; Huffpost

BBC Politics@BBCPolitics

The former Labour leader Tony Blair tells #Marr he is “deeply concerned” after nine MPs left the party 17310:36 AM – Mar 3, 2019302 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Tony Blair has said the Independent Group (TIG) of breakaway MPs are “courageous” but he will stay in Labour as he is “deeply attached” to the party. 

Blair, a long-standing critic Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, denied he was involved with TIG MPs’ plan to split the party but said he had “sympathy” with them. 

Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he added: “I’m in touch with them and I have spoken to some of them.

“I’ve got a great deal of sympathy with what they’re doing and what they’re saying.”

Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and others cited Corbyn’s delay in taking a more pro-EU stance and the party’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism as among the reasons for splitting away. 

It comes amid speculation more Labour MPs could be tempted to leave Labour to sit with the new group, for which Streatham MP Chuka Umunna is spokesman and three pro-EU Tory MPs joined last week. 

Blair said he hopes to “bring the Labour Party back” to the centre ground. 

He added: “I’m staying in the Labour Party. I’ve been in the Labour Party for over 40 years, I led it for 13 years, I was longest-serving Labour prime minister, I’m deeply attached to the Labour Party.

“But do I sympathise with what they have done? Yes, I do. I think they’re courageous in having done it.”

Blair said he is “deeply concerned” about Labour’s direction and policy, adding: “If you want to get back to winning ways, this is not the position to be in.”

He said he believed Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has “shown really great leadership” in recent weeks. 

It comes amid reports Watson has set up a social democratic group within the party that will come up with policy ideas. 

The deputy has also clashed with the party’s general secretary Jennie Formby over how anti-Semitism complaints are handled. 

Blair added: “As a result of what he’s doing, he’s encouraging people who do share a perspective of the Labour Party as a governing, modern, progressive party, he’s actually encouraging them in a sense to stay because he’s providing a space within which people can debate and argue.”

The former PM also welcomed Labour’s switch to backing a second referendum on Brexit. 

Blair added: “I think it’s absolutely inevitable that if you put the choice before the country – hard Brexit Tory party, hard-left Labour Party – it doesn’t matter what I say, what I want to happen, what anyone else says, you leave that amount of fertile territory open, someone is going to cultivate it.”


Labour splits after months of tension

Seven MPs quit Labour Party over Brexit and anti-Semitism

Chuka Umunna

Jeremy Corbyn criticised for failing to push for second referendum on EU exit and for hostility towards Jews in his party

Labour splits after months of tension

AIWA! NO!| Seven Labour MPs announced their departure from the Labour party on Monday morning after months of tension and disagreement over the leadership’s handling of Brexit and other issues.

The seven — Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, and Anne Coffey — told a press conference in central London that they were quitting Labour to become independent MPs, operating under the name The Independent Group.

Umunna called for a centrist “alternative” in British politics as the rebel MPs complained about the far-left turn the party had taken under veteran socialist Corbyn.

“The bottom line is this: politics is broken, it doesn’t have to be this way, let’s change it,” Umunna said at a hastily arranged press conference in London.

The seven MPs will form a breakaway independent group in parliament, undermining Corbyn as he attempts to steer the party through the highly divisive issue of Brexit.

Many Labour voters, particularly in northern England, chose to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum — but a majority of Labour MPs and members supported staying in.

The referendum cut across party political allegiances also in the ruling Conservative Party, which is now deeply divided between pro-EU moderates and Brexit hardliners.

The Labour rebellion is unlikely to make a major difference in crucial votes on prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, but pro-EU forces welcomed the move.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he was “open to working with like-minded groups and individuals in order to give the people the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU”.

Corbyn said he was “disappointed”. Pointing to his party’s strong  performance in the 2017 general election, he said: “Now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all.”

Corbyn is under fire from europhiles for failing to push for a second referendum. Instead, he called on May to negotiate a customs union with the EU to ease trade ties after Brexit.

Corbyn has also been criticised for months for his handling of cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and his past associations with Palestinian militants.

Another of the seven MPs, Luciana Berger, a victim of anti-Semitic online abuse for years, said: “This has been a very difficult, painful but necessary decision.”

The Labour Party had become “institutionally anti-Semitic”,  said Berger. “I have become embarrassed and ashamed to represent the Labour Party. I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation,” she said.

MP Mike Gapes said one of his main reasons for leaving was that he was “furious that the Labour leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit”. Colleague Chris Leslie said he was leaving because of “Labour’s betrayal on Europe”.


Labour leader struggling to balance conflicting forces in his party over Brexit

Labour and Tory MPs in talks over setting up new centrist party

Image result for chuka umunna anna soubry
Give us a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit deal: Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Tory Anna Soubry launch all-party alliance to challenge May’s EU plan//
Daily Mail

Discussions could lead to new party consisting of six or more Labour MPs plus some Tories
Dan SabbaghJessica Elgotand Heather Stewart //The Guardian

Intense discussions are taking place at Westminster that could lead to the emergence of a new centrist party consisting of six or more disaffected anti-Brexit Labour MPs along with the involvement of some Conservatives and the backing of the Liberal Democrats.

Labour MPs reported that some of those involved had lobbied backbench colleagues they thought were sympathetic as to how they could “make the shift” away from a tribal loyalty to the party.

The argument put forward was that the set of values that had drawn them to the Labour party, such as European solidarity, free movement, liberalism and anti-racism, could now be found elsewhere.

Those involved in the talks say frustrations over pro-Brexit policies pursued by Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May, coupled with Labour-specific concerns about antisemitism, have taken a handful of MPs to the point where they are seriously considering quitting.

Labour MPs at the centre of the discussions include Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith and Gavin Shuker, signalling their intention to ratchet up the pressure on Corbyn in the hope he will whip his MPs to back an amendment calling for a second referendum.

“It’s time to start to make them realise that this is existential for the leadership,” said one potential splitter.

Luciana Berger has also been seriously considering her position as a Labour MP because of her dissatisfaction at the party’s approach to Brexit and the handling of antisemitism cases.

Close friends within Labour have been trying to persuade Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree, to stay over recent days. Some party colleagues say that if she were to go it could represent a tipping point.

Conservative MPs considering their futures, according to those involved in the talks, include Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, Anna Soubry, the MP for Broxtowe, and Heidi Allen, who represents South Cambridgeshire.

The three have cooperated closely with Labour MPs as part of the People’s Vote second referendum campaign, and were all lead signatories of an amendment on Thursday that forced the government to agree to release no-deal cabinet documents.

Those involved in the discussions believe that a crunch point could come at the end of February, when pro-EU Labour MPs desperately want Corbyn to back a second referendum and restless Conservatives want May to rule out no deal of she cannot get a revised Brexit agreement through parliament.

Another idea circulating is that the new group could be called the Reformist party, with the Lib Dems contributing national and local resources. “There are a lot of generals here without an army – well the Lib Dems have an army of members,” one MP involved said.

A Labour MP contacted by members of the group said he believed there were around a dozen MPs in his party close to quitting. Those involved in the organisation are understood to have conducted significant polling, including in target constituencies.

“I honestly believe this is imminent. You will see the values emphasised first, rather than policies to help people make that change. There are the names that are public but others are involved, including in the organisation of it, who have never been named,” the MP said.

The Week UK Jeremy Corbyn's failure to back a second referendum could have drastic consequences

UK Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer: General election plan no longer ‘credible’

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has been corrected by the Labour leadershipCredit: PA Images
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has been corrected by the Labour leadershipCredit: 
PA Images

“Labour splits on Brexit have been laid bare once more after Sir Keir Starmer appeared to suggest that pushing for a general election was no longer a “credible option” for the party to pursue” – 
Emilio Casalicchio; PoliticsHome

The Shadow Brexit Secretary said the party was now only pursuing two alternatives – a compromise deal based on proposals contained in a letter from Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May last week, or a second referendum.

Labour’s continued refusal to back a second EU referendum could lead the party to split apart as dissent grows within the ranks, MPs have warned.

Labour’s continued refusal to back a second EU referendum could lead the party to split apart as dissent grows within the ranks, MPs have warned.

But he was slapped down by Jeremy Corbyn’s office, which insisted pressing for an early election remained the party’s “preferred option”.

RELATED: Keir Starmer hints that Labour could accept some EU free movement

RELATED: Labour in Brexit U-turn as Keir Starmer admits ‘any deal’ would need Irish backstop

Under the policy agreed at Labour’s conference, the party vowed to push for an election in the first instance, before pursuing other options, including a “public vote”.

But on Radio Four’s Today programme, Sir Keir said: “We said in September that if there wasn’t a general election then the option of a public vote had to be on the table.

READ RELATED: Will Labour split over Brexit?

“I have said in the last few weeks that in reality for the Labour party the only credible options now left are a close economic relationship – that’s the sort of relationship we spelt out in the letter to the Prime Minister last week – or a public vote.”

When asked about the remarks, a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “The options are a general election, which remains our preferred option, some form of agreement along the lines Jeremy laid out in his letter to Theresa May, and failing that a public vote remains an option on the table.

“Keir agrees that a general election as laid out in our conference policy is our preferred option.”

Mr Corbyn wrote to Mrs May earlier this week to say Labour could back her on Brexit if she commits to a permanent customs union with the EU, among other demands.

Reports emerged on Monday that Sir Keir had fought for a line in the letter about backing a second EU referendum – but that his calls were ignored by the leader’s office.

Sir Keir refused to be drawn on the reports this morning. He told the Today programme: “I’m not going into the ins and outs of the drafting of the letter.”

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker shakes hands with Prime Minister Theresa May as she

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn facing threat of an ‘MPs breakaway’ after Valentine’s Day Brexit vote

Image result for Jeremy Corbyn facing threat of an ‘MPs breakaway’ after Valentine’s Day Brexit vote Read more at:

Jeremy Corbyn is also facing a fresh challenge over his handling of anti-Semitism allegations within the party (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

At least six MPs are said to be contemplating a breakaway move

Nigel Morris is Political Editor of i. He has been a lobby correspondent for 28 years, previously working for the Independent, Daily Mirror and Birmingham Post.

AIWA! NEWS INTERNATIONAL|Labour unity is under intense strain amid new claims that MPs disillusioned with Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit are preparing to quit the party whip and form a new parliamentary grouping.

According to one report, the first defection could come as early as 14 February, immediately after the next round of Commons votes on Brexit. Mr Corbyn will also face a fresh challenge on Monday over his handling of anti-Semitism allegations within the party at what is expected to be a fractious meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

At least six MPs are said to be contemplating a breakaway, with the move led by backbenchers dismayed by their leader’s opposition to a second referendum on Brexit.

Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said his party had been in talks with Labour MPs – as well as Tories – over how to thwart Brexit.

“When the Brexit issue is resolved one way or another, I think they will reconsider their position in the Labour Party,” he said.

“I can’t predict exactly what will happen but I think there’s a real chance of a significant group breaking away,” he told Sky News.

Long-standing rumours of a new centrist grouping have grown at Westminster as the parliamentary skirmishing over Brexit intensifies ahead of next month’s scheduled departure date. Several wealthy benefactors are said to be on stand-by to bankroll the group, particularly if it manages to attract Conservative as well as Labour MPs.

Cloud of scandal Jennie Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party, wants to ensure the anti-Semitism row is dealt with

Monday’s PLP session, MPs will urge Mr Corbyn to prove that the leadership has got to grips with the anti-Semitism row which has dogged the party for more than two years. A motion will give him a week to set out how he is addressing the allegations.

Deputy leader Tom Watson suggested last year that Labour’s general secretary,  should step down if the anti-Semitism row had not been dealt with by Christmas. He said Ms Formby had “staked” her career on dealing with anti-Semitism in Labour, after taking over from Iain McNicol in April 2018.

Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston said: “I’ve made it clear for many weeks that I would not remain in a party that planned to inflict No Deal on its people. Rather than her current coercive approach, the PM could and should take this off the table.”