7 lawmakers quit UK’s Labour Party over Brexit, racism

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London, Feb 18 (IANS) Seven UK lawmakers resigned from the opposition Labour Party on Monday in protest over its policy on Brexit, allegations of anti-semitism and its general shift to the Left under the current leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Lawmakers Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey said they had left the party but will sit in Parliament as the Independent Group, the BBC reported.

“It’s time we dumped this old-fashioned politics,” said Umunna, Member of Parliament for Streatham in south London, as the Independent Group, whose slogan is: “Politics is broken. Let’s change it”, announced its formation.

Umunna has been a vocal opponent of Corbyn’s refusal to back a second Brexit referendum, which was one of the core reasons behind the party split, according to Efe news.

The Independent Group is not yet a registered political party, but it will have the ability to vote with other parliamentary groups and may find common ground on the topic of Brexit with the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party.

These seven MPs are widely regarded as representing the centrist elements of the Labour Party whose shadow Cabinet has tacked to the Left, away from the centre-ground policies embraced by ex-party leader and former Prime minister Tony Blair.

Corbyn lamented the split and said the Labour Party should stay focused on its principal aims to represent the underprivileged.

“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,” he said in a statement.

In 2017, Conservative Party leader and current Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority in a snap general election she herself called when Corbyn’s Labour defied polls and gained 30 seats in the House of Commons.

“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,” Corbyn said.

That electoral campaign saw Labour buoyed by strong support among young people and the emergence of an affiliated grassroots organization called Momentum. The party slid to the Left, making the nationalization of formerly public-owned industries like the railways a central part of its manifesto.

However, since the election, the UK’s opposition has come under public scrutiny not only for its perceived inaction on Brexit but also for allegedly failing to properly address embedded anti-semitism.

Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP for Wavertree in Liverpool, said she could not continue in a party that she labelled “institutionally anti-semitic”.

Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis said the resignations had confirmed that Labour “has become the Jeremy Corbyn Party – failing to take action on everything from tackling anti-Jewish racism to keeping our country safe”.

Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage tweeted: “This moment may not look very exciting but it is the beginning of something bigger in British politics – realignment.”

–IANS

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