Labour hit by split as seven MPs form Independent Group

A group of seven Labour MPs have resigned from the party to create a new Independent Group in the House of Commons, in the most significant split in British politics since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s.

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we aim to recognise the value of healthy debate, show tolerance towards different opinions and seek to reach across outdated divides and build consensus to tackle Britain’s problems.”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.”

Chuka Umunna
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.

Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London
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.”

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