Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Labour hits out at MPs over ‘ill-considered decision to quit’

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned that he could face more resignations
Jeremy Corbyn has been warned that he could face more resignations
Joan Ryan

By Shaun Connolly

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland has condemned the “ill-considered decision” of eight of its MPs to resign.

It comes as one of the breakaway group, Chuka Umunna, signalled that a new centre party could be formally created by the end of the year.

Last night, the BBC reported that Joan Ryan had become the eighth Labour MP to quit the party for the Independent Group, citing a “culture of anti-Jewish racism”.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been warned he faces more resignations by Labour MPs unless he gets a grip on the problem of anti-Semitism within the party’s ranks.

The Northern Ireland branch of Labour said Brexit and the party’s response to allegations of anti-Semitism have been divisive issues, as has Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

“Splitting the party at this time plays into the hands of the Tories, just as the SDP split did in the early 1980s,” an LPNI spokesman said.

“That split on the Left kept the Tories in power for a decade. It is not clear what policies the resigners stand for, other than anti-Brexit.

“They want to remain independents. Yet, they all stood on the Labour general election 2017 manifesto that promised to respect the result of the 2016 referendum.

“It would seem that the common factor is discontent with the leadership, despite the fact Jeremy Corbyn was elected twice by overwhelming majorities. That is not sufficient reason to split the party, which must remain a broad church to win.

He said those who quit Labout should “resign their seats and fight a by-election”.

Yesterday Mr Corbyn urged Labour to unite around his policies for social justice and a more equal society as he expressed “regret” over the resignation of the seven.

The Labour leader strongly defended his policy platform, but acknowledged that he needed to take his party with him if it was to succeed at the polls.

Speaking at the National Manufacturing Conference in London, Mr Corbyn said that he was “disappointed” the seven had decided to leave the party in protest at his leadership. “I hope they recognise that they were elected to Parliament on a manifesto that was based around investment in the future, was based around a more equal and fairer society and based around social justice,” he said.

“They were elected to carry out those policies, they decided to go somewhere else and I regret that because I want our party to be strong, I want our party to be united around the policies that we have put forward.”

Earlier, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the “only disagreement” within the party was over the issue of Brexit, adding: “I think we are bringing people together on that.”

His comments came despite a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday in which the leadership was repeatedly criticised for failing to deal with the issue of anti-Semitism.

Mr McDonnell did acknowledge, however, that the leadership needed to listen to internal critics.

He told Sky news: “We need a mammoth, massive listening exercise and (to) address some of those criticisms that have been made.”

Meanwhile, Mr Umunna indicated that he would like the breakaway group to evolve into an up-and-running centre party at the earliest opportunity.

“I would like to see us move as quickly as possible and certainly by the end of the year, but that’s my personal view,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“There needs to be an alternative, so that’s perfectly possible. But I don’t get to determine this.”

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