Jeremy Corbyn warned more Labour MPs preparing to quit party over Brexit and anti-semitism

Posted On: 
19th February 2019

More Labour MPs are thinking of quitting the party in the wake of the breakaway by seven backbenchers, Jeremy Corbyn has been warned.

Labour MP Ian Austin said the leadership's response to anti-semitism was not good enough.
PA images

At least a dozen more are considering their futures over the leadership's approach to Brexit and tackling anti-semitism.

PolitiicsHome understands that several are waiting to see whether Mr Corbyn throws his weight behind a second EU referendum ahead of the next Brexit votes in the Commons on 27 February before making up their minds.

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And following an ill-tempered meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday evening, Ian Austin MP said others were being forced towards the exit door over the leadership's failure to address anti-semitism by members.

Party chairman Ian Lavery told the meeting that Labour general secretary Jennie Formby had taken great strides in tackling the problem since taking on the job nearly a year ago.

He said: "I refute the allegation that the Labour party is institutionally anti-semitic because if it was I wouldn’t be a member."

But speaking after the hour-long meeting, Dudley MP Mr Austin said the comments had left many of his colleagues thinking about following in the footsteps of rebels Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith.

"If that’s the response from the leadership, it will make the situation much worse. I think you could see more people considering taking the same course of action," he said.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson also warned Mr Corbyn that the party must do more on anti-semitism or risk other MPs quitting.

He said: "They say anti-semitism is a light sleeper. This is certainly a wake-up call for the Labour party.

"We were slow to acknowledge we had a problem and even slower to deal with it. Even a single incident of anti-semitism in the Labour party shames us.

"Now we have lost Luciana, one of our most dedicated and courageous MPs. If someone like Luciana no longer believes there is a home for her in the Labour party then many other colleagues will be asking themselves how they can stay.

"That’s why time is short for us. To confront the scale of the problem and meet the consequences. To keep others from leaving."

But in a briefing to Labour MPs, the leader's office insisted the issue was being dealt with - and rejected the rebels' claims that Mr Corbyn was ignoring party policy to keep the option of another EU referendum on the table.