Read the FULL resignation statements as Labour MPs quit to form 'The Independent Group'
Seven MPs have left the Labour Party to sit in the House of Commons as independents. PoliticsHome has the full resignation statements from Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes and Chuka Umunna.
My name is Luciana Berger and I am the Labour… I am the MP for Liverpool Wavertree. This morning we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful but necessary decision. We represent different parts of the country. We are of different backgrounds. We were born of different generations, but we all share the same values. From today, we will all sit in Parliament as a new independent group of MPs.
For my part, I have become embarrassed and ashamed to remain in the labour party. I have not changed. The core values of equality for all. Opportunity of all. And anti-racism against all. And social justice. The values I hold really dear, and which led me to join the Labour party as a student almost 20 years ago, remain who I am. And yet, these values have been consistently and constantly violated, undermined and attacked as the Labour Party today refuses to put my constituents and our country before party interests. I cannot remain in a party that I have today come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic.
It is nearly a year ago that we saw the unprecedented event where a minority community, the Jewish community, taking to Parliament square to demonstrate against the Labour party to say enough is enough. And yet since then, despite a mountain of evidence, we have only seen the situation of racism against Jewish people get worse.
The leadership has wilfully and repeatedly failed to address hatred against Jewish people within its ranks. And it is for these reasons and many more that I have made this decision today. I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other and who are committed to working together for our great country.
My name is Chris Leslie and I am the Member of Parliament for Nottingham East.
This has not been an easy decision for any of us. We’ve all been Labour Members of Parliament for very many years, in my case for more than three decades, but the Labour party we joined, that we campaigned for and believed in, is no longer today’s Labour party.
We did everything we could to save it, but it has now been hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left. As Luciana said, our values haven’t changed. We absolutely oppose this Conservative government and desperately want an alternative which tackles the barriers of poverty and discrimination by extending opportunities for all.
But British politics is now well and truly broken, and in all conscience, we can no longer knock on doors and support a government led by Jeremy Corbyn or the team around him. Why?
Well, for a start, the evidence of Labour’s betrayal on Europe is now visible for all to see. Offering to actually enable this government’s Brexit. Constantly holding back from allowing the public a final say. Conference policy has been cast aside.
No guaranteed full participation in the single market any more. No exact same benefits. No movement towards a people’s vote. Choosing to stand by why our constituents’ lives and future opportunities are hurt by Brexit is a fundamental violation of Labour’s traditional values. But our differences go far deeper than Brexit.
The past three years have confirmed how irresponsible it would be to allow this leader of the opposition to take the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Many people still in the Labour party will privately admit this to be true, but we owe it to our constituents now to say it publicly and honestly.
The pursuit of policies that would threaten our national security through hostility to Nato, the refusal to act when needed to help those facing humanitarian distress, preferring to believe states hostile to our country, rather than believing our police and security services.
These are all rooted in the Labour leadership's obsession with a narrow, outdated, ideology. They are hostile to business large and small. They make impossible promises that everyone knows, in their hearts, couldn’t be kept without putting the economy at risk. And they constantly pit one part of society against another.
Because to them, the world divides between oppressor and oppressed, class enemies, when in truth the modern world is more complicated than this.
And then, as Luciana was saying, there is an appalling culture. Intolerant, closing down of debate, abuse and hatred online as your seeing this morning, and offline in party meetings, and the anti-Semitism. So we have no choice but to say collectively, enough is enough. There has to be a better way forward. And there can be a better way forward.
My name is Angela Smith and I am the MP for Penistone and Stockbridge in South Yorkshire.
I was born to a Labour family in 1961. My father was a printer by trade, and my mother started work when I was a teenager, eventually moving on as a job as a receptionist in the NHS. For my parents, working class pride was not about enjoying poverty and wearing it as a badge of honour. It was about self-respect. Believing that we could do better, that there was nothing wrong in getting on in life.
In 1966, when many other five-year olds rooted for England in the World Cup, I had my first experience of political identity when my mother told me there was a different competition going on, and that we supported a man called Harold Wilson. My family believed that Labour represented their interests and their values at Westminster. Underpinning that belief was a sense that Labour would help those that faced discrimination and barriers when it came to bringing out the best in themselves.
Let me tell a brief personal story to illustrate the point. I went to a village primary and was recommended by my teachers for the top stream at our uniformed local comp. It was 1972. Imagine then my parents dismay when I was placed in the secondary stream. My mother was encouraged to complain to the head teacher who could not deny that decision on the limited places available in the top tier had been based partly on where we came from. We lived in a council house.
After one-term at my new school I was advanced to the A-stream, but unfortunately the damage was done. I doubted my academic ability and it hindered progress. It was only when I became an adult when I started to believe in myself, and at 29 graduated from Nottingham University with a good first degree. That process was long and difficult and entrenched my belief that nobody should be judged by where they came from. Nobody should have to work two, three, four times as hard to develop his or her talents and abilities. We all have something to offer. Whoever we are.
Most people are like my family. They do not want to be patronised by left-wing intellectuals who think that being poor and working class constitutes a state of grace. What they do want is a fair crack at the whip, and opportunities to succeed.
They also believed that everyone in our country bears a responsibility to make a contribution towards keeping our society safe and prosperous. But these values are no longer valid in today’s Labour party, and that is why I have made the very painful decision to resign my membership and become and independent MP with my colleagues and friends here today.
My name is Gavin Shuker and since 2010 I have been the MP for Luton South.
This is my first and only job in politics. Representing my home town is a great honour, and I stepped up to do it because for me, serving your community in that way is public service. We are leaving the Labour party not only because of what it has become, but because like millions of people, we find that our values no longer find expression in today’s broken politics. We believe ours is a great country.
Perhaps more importantly, so do the vast majority of the British people. We believe that our first duty is to do what it takes to keep people safe. We don’t think every problem in the world is created by the West. In fact, we are proud of our values, home and abroad. We want to work with other countries around the world to tackle our shared challenges, not turn our face against them.
We believe that a strong economy delivers the best public services, and that government is the custodian of the money that others have worked hard to earn. We back well-regulated business, but in return we expect them to provide decent, secure and well paying jobs…
We believe in the innate creativity of individuals: people are powerful and they are capable of taking on responsibility in their own lives. They should. And government should work to remove the barriers of poverty, prejudice and discrimination that hold all too many back.
We believe in strong democratic institutions, a free press, the rule of law, and a politics that doesn’t only vow to the loudest voices. We were sent to parliament to execute our best judgement and provide leadership. We are representatives accountable to those who represent us and we believe that these are values that are shared by the majority of the British people, our friends and our neighbours.
These are values that once would have been considered mainstream in our parties of government - but not anymore. Today they seek to set our communities against one another. Poisoning our debate and dividing our country. At the root of today’s broken politics lie our broken political parties, guilty of a wilful failure of action and an abdication of responsibility.
The complete absence of leadership at the moment our country needs it most. Competing visions of the past, providing no hope for Britain’s future. To express these values in today’s Labour party is no longer possible. It’s turned it backed on the British public. Their hopes and ambitions. That is why we have taken this step today.
I am Ann Coffey, the Member of Parliament for Stockport, a town I have represented for nearly 27 years.
It is a great privilege to be an MP. My father died a year before I was elected. He would have been proud to see the chance for a better life he had fought to give me realised in an achievement beyond his dreams. He believed passionately in education, but without the Wilson government's commitment to providing alternative routes to higher education through expanding place in polytechnics, I would not have got a degree.
Hope and determination of an individual by itself is not enough. I spent 20 years working as a social worker with families, but social work cannot be a response to inequality and lack of opportunity. I joined the Labour party 41 years ago to elect governments that understood that real opportunities for families only comes when the right policies are in place.
I am proud of the achievements of the last Labour government. I thought I would be in the Labour party for the rest of my life, but political parties are not an end in themselves in a parliamentary democracy.
The Labour party has lost sight of this. It is no longer a broad church. Any criticism of the leadership is responded to with abuse and accusations of treachery. Anti-Semitism is rife and tolerated. The current leadership have been very successful at changing this party beyond recognition, and in doing so are failing the people who have supported the party all their lives, and who I joined to help.
Loyalty cannot be an end in itself. So, I leave the party with great sadness. But in hope that we as an independent group can start to change a political system in which people feel they have no voice. I remain totally committed to continuing to serve my constituents. Our values haven’t changed. My values haven’t changed.
I’m Mike Gapes, the MP for Ilford South.
I have always considered myself Labour to my core. I grew up in a working class family in a council house in Chigwell, Essex. My dad was a postman and trade union branch secretary. My mum worked in a newsagents shop. My parents, my education and Buckersill Country High School, a year I spent as a voluntary overseas teacher in Swaziland, before I went to Cambridge University, all taught me the importance of fighting racism, poverty and injustice.
I joined the Labour party more than 50 years ago in 1968. I have been active at all levels since then, from young socialist branch treasurer, to chair of the National Organisation of Labour Students, and I worked for 15 years in the Labour Party headquarters, including as head of the international section of the party. And since 1992 I have been the Labour and Cooperative Member of Parliament for Ilford South.
I am sickened that the Labour party is now a racist, anti-Semitic party. I am furious that he Labour leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit, which will cause great economic, social and political damage to our country.
Jeremy Corbyn, and those around him, are on the wrong side on so many international issues, from Russia to Syria to Venezuela. A Corbyn Labour government would threaten our national security, and international alliances.
Now this is personally very difficult for me. I have got lots of very good friends, locally, nationally and internationally through the Labour party, but I must be true to myself and my values. It has been a great privilege and honour to serve my fantastic constituents in Ilford South for 27 years and I intend to represent them as a member of the new independent group.
I’m Chuka Umunna, the MP for Streatham, the area I am from and grew up in. As you’ve heard from all of the contributions, the values which have driven our decision today are shaped by who we are, where we are from, our experiences. I’m of mixed heritage. You might not be able to tell; I’m a quarter English, quarter Irish and half Nigerian...
My father arrived from Nigeria with no money and he worked his way up to become a successful entrepreneur. Despite the prejudice he experienced the platform this country gave him to succeed was Britain at its very best.
But we’ve had our ups and our downs. He, the only breadwinner of the family, was killed in a car crash when I was just 13. His death taught me that regardless of your circumstances, people need one another. We want our families to get on in the good times, but my gosh, we need to support each other through the bad times.
Too many in Britain face barriers in fulfilling their dreams, their potential and people don’t get the support that they need. We believe it doesn’t have to be that way. Fundamental change is needed.
Now, the last few years have shown the established parties are simply not up to this challenge. They can’t be the change because they have become the problem. They have failed to provide the leadership and clear direction which the UK desperately needs, they are deeply divided, the have failed to fulfil their duties with the competence the public rightly deserves. They have put their party political interests before the nation interest and they don’t represent the complex tapestry which is modern Britain.
Now, there are those who will say there is no alternative, we are domed to be saddled with the same old politics, that we have to settle for voting for the least worst option, or you know, to keep the other lot out, stop them from getting in, that no matter how incompetent they are, we have no option but to vote for these people. We reject this completely.
When our democracy is failing, the British people have overcome the hurdles over history to build a better future. We demanded elected MPs take precedence over unelected Lords, we insisted working men and women have the vote, we said our parliament should better reflect and look like the country in terms of country and ethnicity, and now we have got to change our politics again.
It is time we dumped this country's old fashioned politics and created an alternative which does justice to who we are today, and gives this country and politics fit for the here and now. For the 21st century, not the last one.
So we have taken the first step in leaving the old tribal politics behind and we invite others who share our political values to do so too. You might come from a Labour background, but you might come from other political traditions, and yes it’s a difficult decision, make no mistake about that.
But think about it, you don’t join a political party to spend years and years fighting the people within it. You get involved in politics, you join a party to join the world, so we invite you to join your parties and help us forge a new consensus on a way forward for Britain.
We will sit together as an independent group of MPs in the House of Commons from now on. We have not yet assigned roles and responsibilities between us, but we will have our first formal meeting as a new group of MPs in the coming days.
We want to finish today by speaking directly to the people who send us here, the British people.
For far too long, political parties in Westminster, parties of which we have been a part, have been failing you. If you're sick of politics as usual, well guess what, so are we. That is why we have done what we have done today and that is why we are committed to do things differently.
We don’t have all the answers so we will treat people as adults and be honest about the tough choices facing Britain. We don’t have the big money or infrastructure of the political parties, all we can do is direct you to our website.
Please sign up, we are asking you to help us shape what the next steps should be. Building a new politics cannot be done in committee rooms in Westminster so we want to invite you, the British people, to join us in this endeavour. If you want an alternative, please help us build it. The bottom line is this; politics is broken, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s change it.