Michael Dugher has been a member of the Labour party for 28 years and was a Labour MP from 2010-2017. Before entering parliament he worked in Downing Street for Gordon Brown. This week, he is resigning from the party – citing Jeremy Corbyn's failure to deal with anti-Semitism.
Dugher says “the Labour party I joined no longer exists.” An ex-MP tearing up his membership card is unlikely to make waves in Westminster, but his decision could be a precursor to more dramatic events.
Half a dozen current Labour MPs are rumoured to be on the brink of breaking away from the Labour party. Names in the frame include Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chris Leslie. Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to back a second Brexit referendum is held up as the main source of their frustration, but the anti-Semitism crisis combined with the hard-left policy agenda is causing some serious soul-searching.
It isn't just the policies that are driving more moderate MPs towards the door. The party has become increasingly intolerant of dissent. MPs critical of the leadership are facing intense local efforts to deselect them, with such campaigns being orchestrated by a new breed of party activists who demand total loyalty to the Corbyn cause. It's little wonder some MPs are considering jumping before they're pushed.
While some would likely consider a new political grouping or movement regardless of Brexit, the issue has generated an interesting new dynamic in Westminster where a handful of Tory MPs, also uncomfortable with their own party, are said to be mulling a tie-up with Labour's band of pro-EU centrists. Such a venture would doubtless present some policy headaches, as other than a desire to remain in the EU it's not yet clear what would unite these two wings of political opinion. Where would they stand on welfare, taxation or foreign policy?
These conversations may develop, and there may even be a place for the small band of Liberal Democrat MPs. For now though, it is opposition to the conduct, direction and shape of the current Labour party that is driving a potential realignment of Westminster politics – and the MPs weighing up their longstanding loyalty to a party with their justified objection to its current leadership should follow their conscience and break free from Corbyn's Labour.