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Breakaway British MPs hope more will join them

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-20 02:20

More of the Labour Party's remaining 248 members of Parliament may turn their backs on the organization in the coming days and weeks, in protest at leader Jeremy Corbyn's handling of the Brexit issue, and in frustration at the party's alleged "institutional anti-Semitism".

The claim followed seven MPs leaving the party, currently the United Kingdom's official opposition, earlier this week while claiming it was beset with a culture of "bullying and bigotry".

The seven will remain MPs but will no longer tow the Labour Party line in Parliament.

Chuka Umunna, one of the seven who defected, told the BBC on Tuesday that "a lot of Labour MPs" could join him and his six colleagues in the brand new Independent Group. He said some MPs from the ruling Conservative Party may also join the new faction, in protest at the way their party has allegedly been monopolized by pro-Brexit right-wing MPs.

The Independent Group wants the UK to remain a member of the European Union and its members were disillusioned with Corbyn for failing to push for a second referendum on whether or not the UK should leave the European Union.

Umunna said on Radio 4's Today program that the seven also feared Corbyn could not be trusted as prime minister on national security issues.

"Many Labour MPs agree with us on that," he claimed.

While the new Independent Group is not yet an official political party, he told the Guardian newspaper it will likely become one by the end of the year.

"I would like to see us move as quickly as possible," he told ITV News on the issue of the formation of a new party. " … There needs to be an alternative … But I don't get to determine this."

He said the seven MPs are working with other people on the details of the potential new party.

Labour MP Ian Austin said on Tuesday that the response to the defections from the party's leaders at an emergency meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday evening had been disappointing.

"If this is the best the leadership can do, then I think this will result in more people leaving," he said. "I think (Monday's) events will mean lots of people will be reflecting."

Corbyn, meanwhile, said in a statement he was "disappointed" by the defections, which amounted to the biggest split in the Labour Party for 40 years.

And the party's deputy leader, Tom Watson, admitted more defections could be on the cards. He told the BBC the party must tackle anti-Semitism and called on Corbyn to reshuffle his shadow cabinet to allow more voices to be heard.

Labour MP Jess Phillips, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Corbyn must try to understand why the MPs had quit the party, and "act on it". She warned that a bitter reaction could cause the party to "burst apart".

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, meanwhile, said the seven should stand down as MPs and seek re-election against Labour Party candidates, so the voters they represent in Parliament can decide who represents them.

Contact the writer at earle@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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