Frank Field resigns Labour whip with blast at 'force for anti-Semitism' Jeremy Corbyn
A veteran Labour MP has dramatically resigned the party whip and accused Jeremy Corbyn of becoming “a force for anti-Semitism” in British politics.
Former minister Frank Field said Labour was “increasingly seen as a racist party” and blasted bosses for denying past statements by the leader constitute anti-Semitism.
And he took aim at the “culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation” which he argued “now reigns in too many parts of the party nationally” and was being “wilfully” denied by the leadership.
The pro-Brexit Birkenhead MP was already at risk of deselecton after Labour members in his constituency passed a motion of no-confidence in him in July.
But in a letter to Labour chief whip Nick Brown, the Work and Pensions Committee chair insisted the struggle to combat anti-Semitism in the party was enough to push him out.
He said he will now sit as an "independent Labour MP".
Mr Field said past comments by Mr Corbyn unearthed last week - in which he said British Zionists did not understand “English irony” showed the leader was becoming “a force for anti-Semitism” in politics.
“Britain fought the Second World War to banish these views from our politics, but that superhuman effort and success is now under huge and sustained internal attack,” he said.
“The leadership is doing nothing substantive to address this erosion of our core values. It saddens me to say that we are increasingly seen as a racist party. This issue alone compels me to resign the whip.”
Mr Field said the second reason for resigning the whip was the febrile and aggressive atmosphere that has “tightened its grip” on local Labour parties around the country.
He said despite his own complaints about bullying, and complaints by fellow MPs, “no decisive action” had been taken.
“At best, the party’s failure to act on these numerous complaints about the thuggish conduct of some members demonstrates willful denial,” he said.
“At worst, it serves to legitimise appalling levels of bullying and intimidation of lifelong Labour supporters.”
Mr Field said he would remain a party member and could fight the next election - but he said “great changes” from the leadership would be required before he could re-apply for the Labour whip.
He came under fire from local Labour members in July when he became one of four Labour MPs to vote with the Government on a crunch Brexit vote that some said could have brought Theresa May down.
Mr Field was first elected as MP for Birkenhead in 1979 and has been a Labour member for almost 40 years. He was one of the 35 Labour MPs to nominate Mr Corbyn for the leadership in 2015.
Party sources said Mr Field cannot resign the whip without quitting his Labour membership as well, and said he would be talking to the chief whip tomorrow.
Under the party's rule book, he will now be given two weeks to retake the Labour whip or be automatically kicked out of the party.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Jeremy Corbyn thanks Frank Field for his service to the Labour party.”
A source added: "Frank has been looking for an excuse to resign for some time.”
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said: "This is a serious loss to the party and I deeply regret Frank’s decision.
"It reflects both the deep divisions in the party and the sense of drift engulfing us. It is a major wake up call. We cannot afford to lose people of such weight and stature."