Monday 18 February 2019 10:18 am

Labour pains: Seven MPs quit Corbyn's party to launch The Independent Group

Seven Labour MPs have resigned from the party and will now sit in parliament as an independent group in the wake of disaffection with the leadership's stance on Brexit and anti-semitism.

The MPs, calling themselves The Independent Group, are Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, Ann Coffey and Angela Smith.

Berger, a Jewish MP who recently faced a motion of no confidence from her local party, said the decision had been "very difficult, painful but necessary" decision but that she felt the leadership had "wilfully failed to address hatred of Jewish people in its ranks".

She said she felt "embarrassed and ashamed" to remain in Labour and that she was leaving behind a culture of "bullying, bigotry and intimidation".

Leslie said he had left the party because it had been taken over by "machine politics of the hard left" and that it had succumbed to a "narrow and outdated ideology".

His comments were echoed by Streatham MP Chuka Umunna, who said "fundamental change" was needed in British politics because the main parties had "failed to provide the clear direction the country clearly needs".

"The main parties can't change because they have become the problem," he said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was "disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together".

Gapes, who joined the party over 50 years ago, said he was "sickened that Labour is now a racist and anti-semitic party". 

He said Corbyn and those around him were on the "wrong side of so many international issues – on Russia, Syria and Venezuela", while also branding the Labour leader a "threat to national security".

In a statement posted to the new party's website, the group accused Labour of having "changed beyond recognition".

"Labour now pursues policies that would weaken our national security; accepts the narratives of states hostile to our country; has failed to take a lead in addressing the challenge of Brexit and to provide a strong and coherent alternative to the Conservatives’ approach; is passive in circumstances of international humanitarian distress; is hostile to businesses large and small; and threatens to destabilise the British economy in pursuit of ideological objectives."

They continued: "Today, visceral hatreds of other people, views and opinions are commonplace in and around the Labour party,.

"The values we hold mean that, in all conscience, we can have no confidence in the party's collective leadership, competence or culture.

"Sitting as the Independent Group of MPs we appeal to colleagues from all parties to consider the best interests of the country above short-term party-political considerations and choose to do likewise."

The party's states values are:

  • Fair pay and secure jobs
  • Strong international alliances
  • Devolving power to "the most appropriate level"
  • Protecting the environment
  • Upholding parliamentary democracy

The new party also attracted criticism from remaining Labour MPs. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeted:

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said it was a "desperately sad day".

The grassroots activist group Momentum said the resigning MPs wanted to "take us back to the politics of the past".