It will be an uphill struggle and there will be inevitable setbacks. But Berger, Leslie, Shuker and colleagues have a chance to foster a more tolerant, progressive politicsby Jane Merrick / February 18, 2019 / Leave a comment
It had been a long time coming, but when Labour’s split finally came, the charge sheet from those leaving the party was damning: under Jeremy Corbyn, they said, the party has become institutionally racist, antisemitic, a threat to national security and international alliances, fostered a culture of bullying and intimidation, and enabled Theresa May’s version of a hard Brexit.
The seven MPs who walked out on Monday morning made clear they still had the values of social justice and anti-racism that compelled them to join Labour years ago—it was the Labour Party itself, under Corbyn, that has changed, in their eyes, beyond recognition.
There are many other Labour MPs, activists, members and voters who will be feeling the same yet haven’t yet made the decision to quit. Now, they have a progressive, tolerant and welcoming place to go.
The creation of the Independent Group—while not yet an official political party—is just the start of a new movement. The statements of Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes and Gavin Shuker felt like a collective sigh of relief for centre-left moderates everywhere.
As Berger pointed out, Labour under Corbyn has fostered a “culture that seeks to suppress speaking out.” And it is true that Labour MPs who have defied the leadership over its failure to act on antisemitism, its weak stance on Brexit and its anti-West, pro-Putin and pro-Maduro foreign policy posture have found themselves relentlessly abused and targeted online on social media and offline in party meetings.
Moderate Labour MPs who are staying with the party spoke of how sad and disappointed they were that the split had happened—but let’s be clear, they should be sad and disappointed with Corbyn and his allies, because this is all their doing. If Labour fail to win the next election, it will not be the fault of the breakaway MPs, but Corbyn’s.
It had been long-rumoured that a split was on the cards for soon after Brexit at the end of March, because a breakaway would be too messy for Commons votes and negotiations still to come. Yet Corbyn’s letter to the Prime Minister earlier this month made clear that the hopes of anti-Brexit Labour MPs, that they could get the Labour leader to swing…