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UK's Labour and the Conservatives face more resignations

By Jonathan Powell in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-22 00:38

The UK's Labour and Conservatives are both braced for more resignations after 11 Members of Parliament this week formed a breakaway group in protest at the direction of their parties.

The Independent Group has already taken on eight Labour MPs and three Conservatives, with the defectors warning more could be expected to follow.

On Thursday, there was anticipation that as many as six more Labour MPs could add their names to the Independent Group, which says it stands for "the centre ground of politics".

Conservative MP Justine Greening said she would quit her party if it allowed a no-deal Brexit, while Labour's Ian Austin said he was considering his position.

Conservative splitter Sarah Wollaston claimed her former party was "destroying itself" while outrage over claims of anti-Semitism within Labour continue.

Ex-Conservative MP Heidi Allen told ITV "a third" of Tory MPs were fed up with the party's direction.

As attacks on the prime minister from ex-Conservative MPs intensified, another of the defecting Tories, Anna Soubry, accused Theresa May of having a personal "problem" with immigration.

Soubry told BBC 2's Newsnight: "The only reason why she will not agree to the single market is because of free movement of people.

"And I think what's really worried me about Theresa, and she has history in the Home Office that supports this, because I'm an old barrister, I look at the evidence, and I think she's got a problem with immigration. I really, honestly do."

Chancellor Philip Hammond said he was "saddened" by his former colleagues' comments, but denied that the pro-Leave European Research Group was steering the direction of the party.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today program: "The Conservative Party is, always has been and, in my view, must remain a very broad church.

"I understand their concerns, but I hope over time they will feel able to rejoin the party and help maintain that."

Hammond would not reveal if he would resign his post, but he said the fact a no-deal Brexit was "always a possibility" had "focused minds" and was encouraging compromise.

However, he added that the government was "absolutely committed to avoiding (a no-deal) outcome and making sure that we get the deal".

Meanwhile, in a video released on Twitter on Wednesday night, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said defecting MPs should resign and put themselves up for election.

He said this would be the "democratic thing to do" because they wanted to "abandon the policies on which they were elected".

While the Labour leader said he was disappointed, he suggested the eight were replaceable and the Labour movement was "greater than the sum of its parts".

Other Labour MPs have said they will consider their futures unless Corbyn listens to their concerns about the culture of the party and acts on them.

Former Labour government cabinet minister and EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said he felt "morally compromised" staying in Labour following anti-Semitic abuse endured by people such as ex-Labour MP Luciana Berger. But Mandelson urged Labour MPs to remain in the party.

Contact the writer at jonathan@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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