Jeremy Corbyn says he “regrets” the decision of seven MPs to quit Labour but insisted they had ample opportunity to influence the direction of the party.
In his first public appearance since Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Gavin Shukar, Mike Gapes and Chuka Umunna broke away from the party yesterday, the Labour leader defended the policies he was pursuing.
The seven quit Labour on Monday, branding it “a racist, antisemitic party” with a “culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation”.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson warned other MPs may also leave the party if the concerns raised by the departed seven are not addressed.
Speaking at the Make UK conference of manufacturers, Corbyn did not offer any hint of self-reflection when asked about the split.
He said: “I hope they recognise they were elected to parliament on a manifesto that was based around investment in the future, was based around a more equal and fairer society, was based around social justice and it is that programme I believe we are able to put to the electorate in the future that does have enormous support.
“They were elected to carry out those policies, they have decided to go somewhere else, and I regret that because I want our party to be strong, I want our party to be united around the policies we have put forward.”
When speaking about the formulation of Labour’s policies, Corbyn said: “They are discussed frequently with parliamentary colleagues through select committees, through interest groups within the party and we’re making huge progress.”
He added: “Anyone who thinks they are not being consulted is not taking up in my view the opportunities that are available, there, and open and ready for them at all times to do that.”
Party chairman Ian Lavery received a frosty reception at a meeting of Labour MPs and peers on Monday in the wake of the split.
According to sources in the room, Lavery focused his speech on why a split would benefit the Tories, and did not seem to tackle the reasons why the seven felt the need to leave the party.
One MP told City A.M. the meeting was little more than a “dialogue of the deaf”.