- Analysis: Who are the seven Labour MPs who have resigned?
- Luciana Berger attacks ‘culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation’
- Backlash: Splitters called ‘traitors’ and told to trigger by-elections
- Tory minister and 4 Conservative backbenchers poised to join splinter
- Jess Phillips: Labour is cracking, but I can’t bring myself to quit
- Sign up: Brexit Whatsapp updates and all-new Brexit Bulletin
Jeremy Corbyn has been warned that he is facing a wave of new resignations after seven MPs quit the party over bullying, anti-Semitism and Brexit in the worst Labour split for nearly 40 years.
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, warned Labour could face more “days like this” as he directly challenged Mr Corbyn’s authority as he said at times he “no longer recognises” his own party following a takeover by the hard-left.
He urged the Labour leader to reshuffle his front-bench team to help bring the party back into the “mainstream tradition” and said that he will develop alternative policies with backbenchers.
The resignation of seven Labour MPs on Monday prompted the biggest schism since the “gang of four” quit to form the movement that later became the Social Democratic Party in 1981. The divide was followed by 16 years of Conservative Governments.
The new “independent group” of MPs, described as the “gang of seven”, included Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Ann Coffey and Mike Gapes
Mr Leslie told a press conference in Westminster that it would be “irresponsible” to allow Mr Corbyn to become Prime Minister. He said: “In all conscience, we can no longer knock on doors and support a government led by Jeremy Corbyn or the team around him.”
Ms Berger accused Labour of being “institutionally” anti-Semitic and racist.
Mr Gapes said that Mr Corbyn poses a threat to the UK national security while Angela Smith said she no longer wanted to be “patronised by left-wing intellectuals who think being poor constitutes a state of grace.
All the MPs criticised Labour for “facilitating” Brexit as they called for a second referendum.
Mr Corbyn issued a short statement expressing his disappointment at their departures while John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, challenged them to do the “honourable thing” by resigning and fighting by-elections.
However while the Labour leader attempted to sound conciliatory, the party’s youth wing branded the MPs “cowards and traitors” while Mr Corbyn’s supporters online accused them of being “Blairite Tory parasites” and claimed the departing MPs “work for Israel”.
The Telegraph understands that at least seven other Labour MPs are considering quitting Labour and joining the new Independent Group amid concerns over anti-Semitism and Brexit.
Other Labour MPs understood to be considering joining the new party include four of Mr Corbyn’s biggest critics over his handling of anti-Semitism – Dame Margaret Hodge, Dame Louise Ellman, Joan Ryan and Ian Austin.
Another three pro-European Labour MPs are considering quitting to join the movement if the party fails to back a second referendum. They are David Lammy, Peter Kyle and Neil Coyle.
However it is significantly less than the 30 Labour MPs who were said to be in talks over quitting Labour and forming a new party. A senior Labour source said that they had been deterred by leading roles of Mr Umunna and Mr Leslie in forming the new group.
At least one Tory minister and four Tory MPs are understood to be considering joining the new party.
It came after a delegation of Remain Tory Cabinet ministers on Monday warned the Prime Minister in Downing Street that 22 Tory ministers and members of the Government could quit in a bid to stop a no deal Brexit.
Len McCluskey, a close ally of Mr Corbyn and General Secretary of the Unite Union, said that the “splitters” had “no stomach for a fight for Labour’s core values”.
He said there was a “strong whiff of hypocrisy” about the resignatoins after they stood on a manifesto that promised to respect the result of the 2016 EU referendum.
He also claimed that their accusations that the party suffers from “institutional” anti-Semitism are “grossly unfair”. “History will judge them,” he said.
The youth wing of the Labour Party branded the MPs “cowards and traitors” while one front-bencher accused them of mounting a “direct attack” on the party.
However in a statement Mr Watson said that the MPs who had quit the party should not be seen as “traitors” but rather symptoms of a wider issue.
He said: ““This is a moment for regret and reflection, not for a mood of anger or a tone of triumph. There are those who are already celebrating the departure of colleagues with whom they disagree.
“The hard left can be too easily tempted into the language of heresy and treachery. Betrayal narratives and shouting insults at the departed might make some feel better briefly but it does nothing to address the reasons that good colleagues might want to leave.”
He added: “[The] departure of our colleagues poses a test for our party. Do we respond with simple condemnation or do we try and reach out and extend beyond our comfort zone and prevent others from following? This country faces some troubling questions and we have yet to convince the nation that we have the answers.”
Tory minister and four Conservative backbench MPs poised to join new Labour splinter group
Camilla Tominey and Steven Swinford report:
Tory minister and four Conservative backbenchers appear poised to defect to the new Independent Group set up by disgruntled Labour MPs, it has been claimed.
Describing the breakaway group as “remarkably sensible people”, the minister told the Telegraph he was prepared to join the new party if the Government presses ahead with a no-deal Brexit.
It came as Anna Soubry sparked speculation she is preparing to jump ship after removing a Conservative Party slogan from her social media profile.
The Tory Remainer removed all reference to her party from her Twitter biography, referring to herself simply as ‘MP for Broxtowe’ having previously described herself as a ‘lifelong One Nation Tory’.
Ian Lavery addressing Labour MPs
The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is currently meeting in the Houses of Parliament.
MPs are being addressed by Ian Lavery, the Labour Party chairman, who has apparently told them he “refutes” the allegation that the party is institutionally anti-Semitic.
Ian Lavery: “I refute the allegation that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic because if it was I wouldn’t be a member.”
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) February 18, 2019
Lavery tells PLP meeting he refutes entirely the idea that Labour is an antisemitic party and urges the MPs to now pull together. But one MP suggests dark mood in the room – “absolutely no new effort or action.”
— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) February 18, 2019
’30 MPs were meant to quit’
Buzzfeed is reporting 30 Labour MPs had initially held talks about quitting the party in what was planned as a far more damaging assault on Jeremy Corbyn.
However only seven went ahead with the plan today amid disagreements over the new group’s strategy and organisation.
The news suggests more could follow. John Mann, the Labour MP, said today’s resignations were the “first charge”.
Nick Boles praises new splinter group
Nick Boles, the Tory MP, said of the Labour split: “They’re all good people and I understand completely why they felt driven to leave Labour.
“I have not spoken with any of them about their plans and am totally focused on working with MPs of all parties to stop a no-deal Brexit on March 29.”
Tory backbencher Johnny Mercer praises ‘integrity’ of seven MPs who quit Labour
A sad day when decent people like these arrive at the conclusions they have on one of the UK’s main parties. Don’t underestimate the courage required to do this; don’t join the pathetic abuse pile-on from people who could never match their integrity. pic.twitter.com/RF1jrO4SXt
— Johnny Mercer MP (@JohnnyMercerUK) February 18, 2019
Lord Levy: change needed at ‘very top’ of Labour
Lord Levy, the Labour donor and ally of Tony Blair, said he wants to see change at the “very top” of the party.
He told Sky News: “I wanted to see a new leadership, I want to a strong Labour party in government.”
Seven MPs only ‘first charge’
The seven MPs who quit are only the “first charge”, John Mann has said.
The senior Labour backbencher also said a new breakaway party is “much more developed” than just the seven MPs.
He tweeted: “The new Party is not coming from these seven, they are first charge.”
It comes as Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, warned more MPs will quit the party.
The new Party is not coming from these 7, they are first charge. Most significant fact to emerge today is that they have no plans for a group on the Lords. The new Party is much more developed than these 7.
— John Mann (@JohnMannMP) February 18, 2019
Tom Watson accuses hard left of ‘treachery’
The deputy leader of the Labour party has accused the hard left of being “too easily tempted into the language of heresy and treachery”.
In a statement, Mr Watson said the resignations of seven Labour MPs are “deeply sad” for the party.
He adds: “I love this party, but sometimes I no longer recognise it.
“That is why I do not regard those who resigned today as traitors. I regard them as people who have drawn the wrong conclusion to a serious problem.”
Gaffe for new Independent Group
Angela Smith, one of the seven MPs who quit the Labour party this morning, has been criticised for a gaffe on live television hours after taking part in the Labour split.
After she was asked about racism in the UK, Ms Smith appeared to say: “It’s not just about being black or a funny tinge…” before breaking off and commenting “from the BAME community”.
Ms Smith was speaking on the BBC’s Politics Live programme to discuss the Independent Group.
A former Labour cabinet minister told the Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey: “Unfortunately that’s what happens when you unleash Angela on the airwaves. One minute it’s a brave new party, the next there are accusations of racism.”
Dismissing today’s resignations as “a splinter group, not a split”, the Blairite MP said: “This is just not going to lead to anything. The gap in Labour politics that needs to be filled is working class, not middle class.
“These seven represent the metropolitan elite. It’s just a case of them all jumping before they were pushed. It’s meaningless.”
Ms Smith later apologised for “mis-speaking”:
Four Cabinet ministers urge Theresa May to take no deal off the table
Four Cabinet ministers met the Prime Minister this afternoon to ask her to take no deal off the table, arguing uncertainty over it is hurting businesses.
It comes as Honda announces it plans to shut its plant in Swindon, putting 3,500 jobs at risk.
A source close to Honda said the company was expected to close its plant in Swindon in 2022.
The Japanese car manufacturer could disclose the plan as soon as Tuesday morning, according to Sky News.
Chris Leslie: Corbyn not fit to be Prime Minister
Commenting on his decision to quit the Labour party, Chris Leslie said: “Wouldn’t be true to my values and my constituents if I pretended that Jeremy Corbyn and his team were fit to be prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Asked if his actions would be different if Mr Corbyn was not the Labour leader, he said: “It’s not just about Jeremy Corbyn […] It is the team around him.
“The abuse online and offline in meetings. i think politics should be different.”
Lord Blunkett urges Jeremy Corbyn to pay attention to seven MPs who quit party
Lord Blunkett, the Labour grandee and former home secretary, has urged Jeremy Corbyn to listen to the concerns expressed by the seven MPs who have quit the party, Jack Maidment writes.
A failure to do so could risk the “disintegration” of the party, the peer warned.
He told the BBC: “Firstly, I am extremely sad. I know many of the seven and I count them as friends and I will continue to count them as friends.
“Secondly, I just hope that this decision they have taken will instead of turning on them will actually lead us… to the leadership of the Labour Party taking stock and thinking ‘what is our role in this, what have we not done that would have prevented these seven leaving and what do we need to do now to ensure that the Labour Party doesn’t disintegrate’.”
Lord Blunkett said his “instincts tell me that there will be others” who will now consider their future in Labour.
He also criticised Momentum, the left wing pressure group which supports Mr Corbyn, for the way in which activists have reacted to the split.
Lord Blunkett said: “The message that needs to go out I think from the leadership to those that have joined the Labour Party and are well organised and active at a particular level that their behaviour is as important now as anything that we have seen today and in the reaction of others who may wish to follow the seven.
“That simply means that they have got to call them off. The reaction of one of the spokespeople for this pressure group within the Labour Party, this social movement Momentum, is very, very unhelpful.
“This is about the future of our democracy and our party and we deserve better than bungling amateurs who simply react in a, well they would like to say a class-driven way, but actually most of them are deeply middle class and don’t know anything about real politics and statecraft and how you win in order to do things rather than win internally in order to push people out.”
Ireland rejects ‘keyhole surgery’ on Brexit deal, says it won’t be ‘steamrollered’
The Telegraph’s James Rothwell writes:
Ireland’s deputy prime minister has rejected calls for “keyhole surgery” to be carried out on the Brexit deal, stressing that Dublin cannot allow any changes to the backstop.
“The responsibility to resolve this problem … needs to lie where the problem is, which is in London, not Dublin,” said Simon Coveney after a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
“We would be very foolish if we allowed the onus to solve that problem to switch away from Westminster to Dublin. We will not be steamrolled in this process,” he added.
Stephen Barclay is in Brussels today to update Michel Barnier on Brexiteers’ efforts to find an alternative solution to the Irish border that would remove the need for a backstop.
But Mr Coveney said Ireland was yet to come across any alternative arrangements that would keep the border open and preserve the EU’s single market at the same time.
“Unless you can answer questions on what alternative arrangements actually are that can do the same job as the backstop then you can’t move on to alternative arrangements,” he said.
Election more likely?
Tory MPs are saying a general election is now more likely, Steven Swinford reports.
A Labour split means Conservatives are more confident they could win in the polls. Comparisons are being drawn with the SDP in the 1980s, which indirectly helped Margaret Thatcher to power.
Stephen Barclay and Geoffrey Cox on way to Brussels for talks
Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is on his way to Brussels for talks with Michel Barnier. Mr Barclay will be joined by Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General.
The ministers are expected to discuss proposals for “alternative arrangements” to the backstop, as the government seeks changes from the EU which would get Theresa May’s deal over the line in the Commons.
Will the Labour MPs face by-elections?
John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, has called for the seven MPs who quite Labour this morning to face by-elections.
He said: “If you do splinter off… you have a responsibility to go back to the electorate” Shadow chancellor says seven MPs who quit the Labour Party should face by-elections.”
Labour donor warns MPs against leaving party
John Mills, the major Labour donor and businessman, said: “I urge anyone in the Party thinking of leaving, not to do so. We are a stronger, louder, more forceful voice together. We can achieve more through unity than in-fighting.
“The Labour Party is the only way to build a fairer country and economy. We have a history of fighting for working people, equality for all and social justice, and we continue to do so today.
“We do not agree on everything, Brexit chief among them, but we agree on more than we disagree on – and we are stronger for the diversity of views within our Party. My wholehearted support remains with the Labour Party and its leadership.”
Meanwhile Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP, called the group “cowards”.
Jewish community leader: new group is ‘searing indictment’ on Jeremy Corbyn
Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the founding of the Independent Group is a “searing indictment on the Labour leadership”.
The seven MPs who quit the party this morning cited Labour’s failure to get anti-Semitism under control as one of their main reasons for leaving.
Luciana Berger said: “I cannot remain in the party that I have today come to the sickening conclusion is anti-Semitic.
“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation.”
Luciana Berger: it would be easier to keep our heads down
Asked if the seven MPs “jumped before they were pushed”, Luciana Berger said: “It would be much easier for us to keep quiet and keep our heads down. That’s not what we came into politics to do.”
Meanwhile Angela Smith said the comparison to the founding of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s is not accurate.
And @angelasmithmp rejects comparisons with the SDP – does say Labour has lurched left and the Tories to the right but not a new centre party -‘not for us to determine what a new party should look like’ and ‘we want to hear’ from people – first meeting will be in a few days
— iain watson (@iainjwatson) February 18, 2019
Chuka Umunna invites other PMs to joining “Independent Group”
The new group of Labour MPs will have their first formal meeting as the new “Independent Group” in the coming days. Chuka Umunna called on MPs from other parties to join them.
The MP also invited the public to pledge its support.
The group’s website is inviting donations of up to £500.
Angela Smith said: “People feel politically homeless. We cannot be complicit in a political system which is broken and which is failing to put the country first.”
Resigning MPs publish ‘Statement of Independence’
This is the ‘Statement of Independence’ issued by the seven Labour MPs who resigned the party whip today:
Jeremy Corbyn reacts
Jeremy Corbyn responds to the news seven Labour MPs have resigned the party whip:
“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.
“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.”
Seven Labour MPs announce their resignations
Announcing his resignation, Chris Leslie said the party has been “hijacked by the politics of the hard left.”
The accused the party of “betraying” the country over Brexit.
Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey have all just resigned from the Labour Party.
— Harry Yorke (@HarryYorke1) February 18, 2019
Labour MPs to form the ‘Independent Group’
The Labour MPs are expected to call themselves the “Independent Group”. The lectern at the upcoming event has revealed the new group name.
A website has been launched here.
Luciana Berger has taken to the podium.
Labour MPs reaffirm loyalty amid expectation of split
As up to half a dozen Labour MPs are expected to quit the party, others are reaffirming their loyalty to the party.
Caroline Flint said the Labour party “spoke to my values and hopes for a better country. It still does.”
Tulip Siddiq said: “Labour to the core.”
2019 – 40 years as a Labour Party Member. In 1979, as a working class teenager who’d never met an MP, I can’t boast that my family were political and part of Labour and trade union aristocracy. But @UKLabour spoke to my values and hopes for a better country. It still does.
— Caroline Flint (@CarolineFlintMP) February 18, 2019
Labour MPs expected to quit shortly
Harry Yorke is in the Labour ‘future of politics’ event:
Labour MPs are due to address members of the media at a press conference close to Parliament this morning.
There are currently seven chairs on the platform and a stool placed directly behind the lectern.
Intriguingly, there is a piece of paper obscuring what appears to be a logo on the lectern. Journalists are not being permitted to take a peek.
Japan post-Brexit deal backlash
Japanese officials appear to have taken offence at a letter by Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox asking to speed up work on a post-Brexit trade deal.
On February 8, the foreign secretary and international trade secretary wrote to their Japanese counterparts to say “time is of the essence” to reach an agreement.
Although British officials insisted the letter was worded in standard diplomatic language, Japanese officials believe it reflected an increasingly high-handed approach from the UK.
The Financial Times reports that officials in Tokyo considered cancelling an upcoming round of trade talks in response.
In one section, the offending letter said the UK is “committed to [speed and flexibility] and hope that Japan is too”. According to people close to Japanese trade officials, this was interpreted as an accusation of foot-dragging.
Theresa May’s government is already battling to mend relations with China, after Beijing cancelled a key trade meeting with chancellor Philip Hammond in protest at a UK pledge to send an aircraft carrier to the Pacific.
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