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”.

AFP

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