Labour grandee Dame Margaret Beckett tells unhappy MPs it would be 'a mistake' to quit party

Posted On: 
17th February 2019

A former interim Labour leader has urged anti-Jeremy Corbyn MPs said to be on the brink of quitting the party to think again.

Dame Margaret Beckett urged Labour MPs not to quit the party
Credit: 
PA Images

Dame Margaret Beckett - who led Labour for a brief period after former leader John Smith died in 1994 - said a split would be a “big mistake”.

Around six Labour MPs who back a second EU referendum are said to be mulling whether they should resign the whip and form a new centrist movement.

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They are also said to be angry at the handling by the party of its anti-Semitism crisis, as well as the general direction under Mr Corbyn.

Dame Margaret told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "There are people who have been working desperately hard - people outside the Labour party - who have been working hard for years to try to persuade the Labour Party to split. I think it's a big mistake.

"I hope none of my colleagues take that advice because it's the worst possible advice they can have. At the most basic and brutal: If you want to change an organisation you don't change it by leaving it. It wouldn't be good for them or for the party."

Names frequently in the frame for a possible split include Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger and Angela Smith.

The comments from Dame Margaret emerged after former Labour vice chairman Michael Dugher revealed he is set to quit the party, saying it has become "institutionally anti-Semitic".

The ex-shadow transport minister, who stood down as MP for Barnsley East in 2017, said the party he joined nearly three decades ago “no longer exists” and he could not justify paying the membership fee.

His announcement comes days after Labour revealed it had received 673 allegations of anti-Semitism by its members over the past 10 months, resulting in 12 individuals being expelled.

'NO-BREXIT OPTION'

Elsewhere in her interview, Dame Margaret said she had come round to thinking the UK should not quit the EU.

"I’ve come round to the no-Brexit option," the former deputy Labour leader said.