“Centrist” MPs within Labour are breaking off to form their own “Independent Group” faction in Parliament, citing socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn’s tardiness in embracing a new referendum to overturn Brexit and the party’s ongoing anti-Semitism scandals.
Globalist anti-Brexiteers Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, and Ann Coffey said they were “embarrassed and ashamed” to be associated with Corbyn’s Labour, with Leslie claiming the party had been “hijacked”.
Stephen Kinnock MP, son of the former European Commissioner and Labour leader Neil Kinnock, had predicted that there would “probably be some kind of splintering” earlier in the day, urging the renegades to “stay in and fight” to take the party’s reins back — ultimately without success.
Chuka Umunna calls on MPs from other parties to join them: "We have taken first step in leaving old tribal politics behind. We invite others to do the same.
"You might come from a Labour background, but you might come from other political traditions".
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) February 18, 2019
The new faction could in future become a home for left-leaning anti-Brexiteers from the governing Tory party, such as Anna Soubry — several of whom have suggested they could resign the party whip if the Brexit which Theresa May delivers is too “hard”, or if she is replaced as Tory leader by a committed eurosceptic like Boris Johnson.
The left-liberal, fanatically europhile Liberal Democrats have long been rumoured to be in talks with “centrist” MPs loyal to the EU from both Labour and the Tories about forming a new party or political grouping.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable tweeted that it was “not unexpected, or unwelcome, that a group of Labour MPs have decided to break away from Corbyn’s Labour; in part motivated by his refusal to follow the party’s policy on Brexit”, adding that he was “open to working with like-minded groups and individuals in order to give the people the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU” — but did not play a direct role in the announcement of the split.
There it is. This isn’t just Labour factionalism, Chuka Umanna issues a come on to Tory moderates to join the Independent Group: “We invite you to leave your parties and forge a new political consensus for Britain”. Will they?
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) February 18, 2019
Reaction from Corbyn loyalists has been fairly muted so far, with the 69-year-old’s inner circle downplaying the significance of the defections — but some of his acolytes were less forgiving of the splitters.
“Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we’ll keep the red flag flying here,” remarked the official Young Labour account on Twitter pointedly, quoting the party’s 19th-century socialist anthem.
Jo Stevens MP, meanwhile, called on the breakaway MPs to “do the decent thing” and put themselves up for re-election, to see if their constituents still want to be represented by them minus their Labour ticket.
This does not appear to be on the cards, however — despite the seven MPs’ keenness for the public to vote again on whether they are still sure about Brexit.
More to follow, this story is developing…