John McDonnell : Labour Has ‘Held The Party Together On Brexit’

Labour's Dudley North MP Ian Austin

From Luciana Berger's very first words, the sheer gravitational pull of being in the Labour party was still evident.

Speaking at a hastily arranged news conference in London, the seven MPs, Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey, accused party chief Jeremy Corbyn of leading the party to the far lef, and criticised the party's handling of alleged anti-Semitism.

Trying to get the Labour party to support a second referendum has "been like getting blood from a stone", said Chuka Umunna, one of the lawmakers, at a press conference on Monday.

In response, Corbyn said he was disappointed by their decision to leave the party.

In 1981, four members of the Labour Party, known as the "gang of four", resigned and formed the Social Democrat Party (SDP).

Senior Labour figures have warned MPs against splitting away from the party - claiming it could risk a decade of Conservative government.

A group of British Labour MPs is to make an announcement "relating to the future of British politics", amid rumours of a party split.

Many Labour MPs will emit a hollow laugh at Corbyn's reaction today (he repeated he won the largest increase in the party's vote since 1945), stressing he failed the basic leadership task of winning that Blair and Wilson so clearly carried out.

Commenting on suggestions MPs could again quit Labour to join a breakaway party, Mr McDonnell told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "It would be like the 1980s because my constituency in Hayes and Harlington - we had a Labour MP join the SDP and we lost the seat to the Conservatives".

Ms Berger initially introduced herself as "the Labour Party MP", before correcting herself and saying: "I am the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree".

Seven British lawmakers quit the main opposition Labour Party on Monday over its approach to issues including Brexit and anti-Semitism, blasting open a long-simmering rift in the left-of-center party.

They will continue to sit as lawmakers in parliament under the banner "The Independent Group".

Many Labour members oppose Brexit - which is due in less than six weeks, on 29 March - and want the party to fight to hold a new referendum that could keep Britain in the 28-nation bloc.

A "statement of independence" on the group's website says it will "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".

The party has come under further criticism for what is perceived as institutionalised antisemitism in its ranks. We now know more about why these MPs left Labour, but little about where they go from here, or what unites their thinking.

A Labour source close to the group, said today's departures could trigger a second wave of resignations, underlining the frustration over Corbyn's approach to Britain's biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years.

But consider too the Labour leadership's hesitancy in campaigning full throttle for another referendum on staying in the European Union, and the group, all of whom believe there should be another referendum, felt they had no choice but to quit.

Corbynism itself was highlighted by some of the MPs who have quit Labour and, of course, people have different views about what exactly Corbynism is.

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