After months, years even, of antisemitism and Jew-baiting in the Labour Party, and the lack of response by Jeremy Corbyn, 7 brave MPs announced their departure from the Labour Party on Monday, forming an informal political group (as opposed to a party) called simply “The Independent Group”:
Seven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and anti-Semitism.
They are: Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.
Ms Berger said Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to stay.
Mr Corbyn said he was “disappointed” the MPs had felt unable to continue working for the policies that “inspired millions” at the 2017 election.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the “honourable thing for them to do” would be to stand down as MPs and seek to return to Parliament in by-elections.
One of the few Labour officials with a sense of proportion and fairness was deputy leader Tom Watson:
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, in a video message on Facebook, urged the “hard left” to stop celebrating the departure of the seven MPs, saying it was “a moment for regret and reflection not for a mood of anger or a tone of triumph”.
“Betrayal narratives and shouting insults at the departed might make some feel better briefly but it does nothing to address the reasons that good colleagues might want to leave,” said Mr Watson.
He said Luciana 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.”
Here is Luciana Berger’s speech announcing her resignation:
You can read how it all unfolded on Twitter on this unrolled thread by the Jewish Telegraph Agency.
Here is Luciana Berger’s statement (click to enlarge):
Here is Mike Gapes’ statement:
But where was Jeremy Corbyn during the crisis? Almost entirely absent besides a short statement:
“I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945. “Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change. “The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan. When millions are facing the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness and poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all.”
Note that he doesn’t address the Independent Group’s complaints at all. The man is obtuse and dim-witted, besides being an antisemite and raving Marxist. He is not fit to lead any kind of political party.
The Independent Group already have their website up and running. Here is their mission statement:
We are leaving the Labour Party to sit as the Independent Group of Members of Parliament.
Our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to put the best interests of our constituents and our country first. Yet like so many others, we believe that none of today’s political parties are fit to provide the leadership and direction needed by our country.
Our aim is to pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the party’s interests.
As an Independent Group we aim to recognise the value of healthy debate, show tolerance towards different opinions and seek to reach across outdated divides and build consensus to tackle Britain’s problems.
The Independent Group of MPs
Each of us has dedicated decades to the progressive values that were once held true by Labour, values which have since been abandoned by today’s Labour Party.
Labour now pursues policies that would weaken our national security; accepts the narratives of states hostile to our country; has failed to take a lead in addressing the challenge of Brexit and to provide a strong and coherent alternative to the Conservatives’ approach; is passive in circumstances of international humanitarian distress; is hostile to businesses large and small; and threatens to destabilise the British economy in pursuit of ideological objectives.
For a Party that once committed to pursue a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect, it has changed beyond recognition. Today, visceral hatreds of other people, views and opinions are commonplace in and around the Labour Party.
It is not simply that our values are no longer welcome in the Labour Party; the values we hold mean that, in all conscience, we can have no confidence in the Party’s collective leadership, competence or culture.
To fix our broken politics, we are clear that we want to develop a different approach. We recognise that every member of our group has the right to be heard and a duty to lead. We commit to support each other and treat each other with respect.
Sitting as the Independent Group of MPs we appeal to colleagues from all parties to consider the best interests of the country above short-term party-political considerations and choose to do likewise.
Kol hakavod to them. Whether one agrees with their actual policies or not is almost besides the point. If these 7 MPs can grow to become a bigger group and bring about a more rational and reasonable type of politics in Britain, where people can debate and even agree to disagree, it can only be for the good.
The Jewish Labour Movement said:
The Labour Against Antisemitism group’s statement:
You can read more about the Jewish Labour Movement and their reconsidering their future with the Labour Party after 99 years of partnership at this Jewish News link.
And here are some responses to the mass resignation. Some haters just couldn’t help themselves and simply proved the group’s point; others displayed some self-reflection and regret:
Talking of bullying, bigotry and intimidation, the Independent Group had hardly formed when it was already being accused of being in the pay of Israel! It’s quite incredible that there are people in positions of power who think that a politician cannot possibly want to disagree with “the great Leader” unless they are in the pay of
the Jews Israel:
It is exceedingly sad to realise that this melt-down on the left has been going on for years. Brian Goldfarb reminded me of an article of his on Engage Online which was posted exactly six (!) years ago on this very same subject of the Looking Glass world of anti-Zionism on the progressive Left. As Brian noted:
The article was first delivered as a talk to the Jewish residents of Cambridge (not including the transient students) on 10 December 2012 and then posted on the Engage Online website on 18 February 2013. Re-reading it, it struck me that, with the resignation of 6 Labour MPs from the Parliamentary Party, this article has, sadly, regained its relevance.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Maybe the courageous move of these 7 MPs will be the harbinger of a new wave in British politics. Let’s hope that many more politicians will join this new group and bring about a fairer, more balanced trend in British politics.