Labour hit by split as seven MPs form Independent Group

Arturo Kim
February 20, 2019

During the press conference held by the new "Independent Group" of anti-Corbyn MPs, the official Young Labour account tweeted: "Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we'll keep the red flag flying here". Since that episode, for which he apologized, Mr. Corbyn, who is a vehement and unapologetic critic of the current Israeli government, has failed to shake off claims that he has tolerated anti-Semitism within Labour's ranks.

Decent Labour MPs have been in despair for months, privately sharing their angst both with each other and Conservatives too.

The new Independent Group has set up a website with the slogan "Politics is Broken, Let's Change It". "Seven British MPs leave the Labour Party due to 'institutional anti-Semitism.' Europe, wake up".

He said: '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'. But this is the biggest split in the party since four senior members quit in 1981 to form the Social Democratic Party.

The lawmakers said they supported calls for a so-called "People's Vote", or second Brexit referendum, which the Labour party leadership has so far refused to back.

But it was clear that for the seven lawmakers, Corbyn's wider beliefs had spurred them to leave the party.

In a strongly-worded leading article, the paper calls it a "truly seismic day for British politics", and jumps to the defence of the newly formed Independent Group, made up of Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

Despite the ruling Conservative Party's own continuing internal power struggle, and widespread disapproval over its handling of Brexit, the latest opinion poll had the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck with 37 per cent national support. When she described bullying and bigotry in her speech, Berger was speaking from her experience within the Labour Party, and the abuse she has received on and offline.

Nigel Farage, who led the country's Brexit campaign, weighed in on Twitter, saying, "This moment may not look very exciting but it is the beginning of something bigger in British politics #realignment".

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"We know that there are members of the Labour Party who have joined who have clearly anti-Semitic views, or have been in our party for some time and have clearly anti-Semitic views, the Labour Party hasn't acted swiftly enough to kick them out".

The rebel MPs recounted their hard journey towards leaving Labour, saying the party had changed since Corbyn became leader in 2015 and there was no longer space for their centre-left views.

Umunna, Labour's former chief business spokesman who was once talked about as a future party leader, said mainstream political parties have "become the problem" and urged politicians from across the political spectrum to join the new group.

But their move underlines the increasing frustration within Labour over Corbyn's reluctance to change his Brexit strategy - the leftist leader and long-time critic of the European Union has stuck to his preference for a new election or his plan to leave the bloc. Today, many in Labour blame the SDP for an act of treachery which kept Mrs Thatcher in, while others say its template created Blair's New Labour.

"Any criticism of the leadership is responded to with abuse and accusations of treachery", she said.

'I am furious that the Labour leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit.

Mr Khan said: "It's deeply distressing, all of these MPs are friends of mine".

"It has the Labour brand but it is a machine that has taken over", he said. "It is better to remain in the party, fight your corner".

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