EXCL Jeremy Corbyn urged to sack Labour MP who hailed Independent Group split as 'necessary cleansing'

Posted On: 
18th March 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has been urged to sack a Labour frontbencher after he said MPs who quit the party to form the Independent Group were part of a “necessary cleansing” of moderates.

Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney
PA Images

Shadow Scotland Office minister Paul Sweeney said former colleagues such as Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie were “self-centred careerists”.

They were among eight Labour MPs who resigned from the party last week, claiming they were unhappy with Mr Corbyn's handling of Brexit and anti-semitism.

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They were joined in the new centrist group by Tory MPs Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry.

One Labour MP told PoliticsHome Mr Sweeney's remarks were a chance for the Labour leader to “show that he is serious about dealing with anti-semitism and bullying in the Labour party” by sacking him.

Speaking at a launch of the Tribune magazine in Glasgow last Friday, Mr Sweeney took aim at the Labour TIG members, except for Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, who he said had faced unacceptable bullying.

According to the Morning Star, he said Mr Leslie was “aloof and arrogant,” adding: “The venom and the vitriol with which he addressed our front bench was a disgrace.”

And he said: “There’s a necessary cleansing that has to happen in the margins.”

Chris Leslie told PoliticsHome: "I’m not going to get into personal insults from Paul Sweeney who has never spoken to me. I left because I could no longer ignore my severe concerns over the Labour party’s position on national security and handling of Brexit and of course, anti-semitism. I am happy with my decision and I’m glad I no longer have to put up with this sort of thing any more."

Ian Austin - a former Labour MP who quit the party in protest at the leadership but did not join the Independent Group - took aim at the comments.

“Let's think about this: [Paul Sweeney] thinks the party is cleaner because people appalled about racism have left,” he said on Twitter.

“I'm wondering why anyone would want to be on the front bench helping Jeremy Corbyn in the first place.”

A Labour MP told PoliticsHome: “Jeremy Corbyn has an opportunity here to show that he is serious about dealing with anti-semitism and bullying in the Labour party by sacking Sweeney from his shadow ministerial role and stripping him of the Labour whip.

“Anything less than that will be viewed as more prevarication on this issue.”

Mr Sweeney could not be reached by PoliticsHome prior to publication. The Labour party declined to comment.