Seven Labour politicians have quit Britain’s main opposition party over leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism and his approach to Brexit, the BBC reported Monday. They will sit as a new, independent group of MPs while planning their next steps in the worst Labour split for nearly 40 years.
Luciana Berger, a prominent Jewish MP from Liverpool – who required special police protection at Labour’s 2018 annual conference after she had received threats from members for confronting anti-Semitism in the party – said: “I cannot remain in a party that I have come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally antisemitic.”
Earlier this month, Berger was threatened with deselection from the party over her criticism of Corbyn.
Alongside Berger, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, and Angela Smith announced they would be breaking away from the Labour Party at a press conference “relating to the future of British politics.”
“It was nearly a year ago that we saw the unprecedented event of a minority community – the Jewish community – taking to Parliament Square to demonstrate against the Labour party,” Berger observed. “And yet since then, despite the mountain of evidence, we have only seen the situation of racism against Jewish people get worse.”
Berger said the party’s leadership had “wilfully and repeatedly failed to address hatred against Jewish people within its ranks,” adding, “I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation.”
Mike Gapes added that he was “sickened that Labour is now perceived by many as a racist, anti-Semitic party,” while Chris Leslie charged that Labour under Corbyn had been “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left.”
The MPs said they will continue to serve in Parliament under the newly-formed Independent Group.
Corbyn said he was “disappointed” with the resignation and that they felt unable to continue to work for policies that “inspired millions” at the last election.
However, Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, warned that Berger’s decision to quit was a “wake-up call for the Labour Party” over anti-Semitism, saying: “We were slow to acknowledge we had a problem and even slower to deal with it.”
Labour had to “broaden out” and become more tolerant, he said, adding: “I love this party. But sometimes I no longer recognise it, that is why I do not regard those who have resigned today as traitors.”
In a statement, the Jewish Labour Movement noted: “Countless Jewish Labour Party members have resigned in these last few years in protest at the abject failure of the Party to address a growing culture of antisemitism, obfuscation and denial.
“It will be for our members to decide what they, and we, do next.”
Shortly after the split on Monday, it emerged that Labour had readmitted former deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, Derek Hatton. He was expelled from Labour in the 1980s for being a member of Militant, which was a Trotskyist group.
In September, Hatton suggested the party’s anti-Semitism crisis was “all to do with trying to remove Corbyn,” describing it as “an unholy alliance between the media, the Tories and many right wing MPs.”
He has also called for boycotts of “all sporting events with Israel,” accusing the country of “getting away with cold, calculated murder.”
[Photo: Sky News / YouTube ]