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Chuka Umunna refuses to rule out leaving Labour as he calls on Jeremy Corbyn to prevent party split

Chuka Umunna refuses to rule out leaving Labour as he calls on Jeremy Corbyn to prevent party split
3 min read

Chuka Umunna has called on Jeremy Corbyn to acknowledge Labour as a home for each of its warring factions or risk a party split.  

The former shadow minister - who has been a prominent critic of the left-wing leader since he took over the role - urged Mr Corbyn and his top team to declare that centre-left members have a “legitimate” place within Labour.

It comes a day after he sparked anger among some in the party by appealing to the leadership to “call off the dogs”, following votes of no confidence in two MPs by Labour activists.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the line in his speech to centre-left Labour group Progress was “grossly offensive”, while party chair Ian Lavery branded it “outrageous” and “offensive”.

But Mr Umunna defended the phrase and said the criticism was being used to “deflect” from internal issues including votes of no confidence, anti-Semitism experienced by MPs and the presence of Iranian state TV at a recent party meeting.

He said: “The phrase that I used is a metaphor, it’s a figure of speech. In fact John McDonnell used the same phrase to Gordon Brown in 2007…

“This has been used to deflect from the real issue and the real issue here is that the extraordinary has become the new normal in the Labour party."

He added: “The point of my speech yesterday was to say actually, ultimately, the job of leadership… is to keep the party united and together and to illustrate not just by what they say, but what they do, that they see the centre-left, social democratic in the Labour party as legitimate and by the actions both of supporters and members of different traditions in the party, we see that they don’t think the tradition that I belong to, social-democracy, centre-left Labour values, does belong in the party, so it’s for them to show, that it does...”

“This issue of divisions, splits, is not an issue for me, that’s the job of leaders, to keep the party together.”

When asked if he would consider leaving the party, he said: “I don’t want to leave the Labour party.”

“When pressed further, he added: “Well who knows what I’ll be doing when I’m 80. I’ve been a member of the Labour party for more than 20 years and I joined with the intention of never leaving it.

“I wanted to be a member of the Labour party on my deathbed and I hope that that is the case…”

His comments followed an appearance on the same programme by Mr Lavery, who accused the Streatham MP of “denigrating” Labour activists.

He said: “That is so disrespectful, it’s so offensive to members of the Labour party. Calling anybody a dog is absolutely outrageous in the extreme. If Chuka Umunna of all people should know that…

“These are the people who keep Chuka Umunna, myself and other MPs in a job. These are the people who deliver leaflets, who speak to people on the doorstep, these are people who go out in rain, hail or shine to ensure that we’ve got the best possible chance of winning an election.”

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