Seven Labour MPs quit the party to form 'The Independent Group'

Seven Labour MPs quit the party this morning (Getty Images)

Seven Labour MPs have quit the the party in protest over Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and failure to tackle antisemitism within the party.

Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey resigned the Labour whip and formed a Parliamentary coalition called ‘The Independent Group’.

At a press conference announcing the decision, MP Luciana Berger said she was ’embarrassed and ashamed’ to be part of a party that is ‘institutionally antisemitic’.

Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London as speculation mounts that several Labour MPs could be about to quit the party. (Photo by PA/PA Images via Getty Images)

The MP for Liverpool and Wavertree is a vocal critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism within Labour and has been at the centre of a party dispute in recent weeks.

The Jewish MP, who is nine months pregnant, has been threatened with deselection by her local party after speaking out against her party’s leader.

She said: “This morning we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision.

Independent Group MPs (PA)

“We represent different parts of the country, we are of different backgrounds, we were born of different generations, but we all share the same values.

“From today, we will all sit in Parliament as a new independent group of MPs.”

MP Mike Gapes, who joined Labour as a 16-year-old, accused the party of being antisemitic and ‘complicit in facilitating Brexit’.


He said: “I’m sickened that Labour is now a racist, anti-semitic party.

“Jeremy Corbyn and those around him are on the wrong side of so many international issues from Russia to Syria to Venezuela.

“The Corbyn government would threaten our security and international alliances.”


Ann Coffey told the press conference: “I thought I would be in the Labour Party for the rest of my life.”“But political parties are not an end in themselves in a parliamentary democracy. The Labour Party has lost sight of this, it is no longer a broad church.

“Any criticism of the leadership is responded to with abuse and accusations of treachery. Anti-Semitism is rife and tolerated.”

Chukka Umunna called on MPs from other parties to join their movement.

He said: “We invite you to leave your parties and join us in forging a new consensus.”

The MP said that the group could vote with the Tories in future and would decide whether to do so on an issue-by-issue basis.

What has the reaction been?

Jeremy Corbyn responded to the news, saying: “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.

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.”

 

On social media some of the reaction has been significantly more hostile, including from the Young Labour Twitter account who implied that the seven MPs were ‘cowards and traitors’.


Labour’s Jon Ashworth said that the move would keep the Conservatives in power.


Many others expressed sadness and disappointment over the split, including former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lucy Powell, who expressed sadness over the departure of her ‘friend’ Luciana Berger.