Jeremy Corbyn's office slams breakaway MPs as pro-austerity ‘establishment coalition’
Jeremy Corbyn's office has dismissed the new Independent Group of former Labour and Tory MPs as an “establishment coalition” based on an approach that voters have already rejected.
In comments which appeared to be at odds with John McDonnell's pledge to listen to the concerns of those involved, a spokesman for the Labour leader said the MPs backed "austerity, corporate tax cuts and privatisation" and predicted they would be rejected by voters.
Eight Labour MPs have resigned from the party in the past 48 hours, taking aim at Mr Corbyn's approach to Brexit and tackling anti-semitism.
They were today joined by three Conservatives who accused Theresa May of giving in to the Brexiteer European Research Group faction of Tory MPs.
Mr McDonnell said Labour would undergo a "mammoth, massive listening exercise" to address the rebels' concerns.
But asked about the breakaway, a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: "It's obviously disappointing that a small group of MPs have decided to leave the Labour party and that is regretted.
“The fact is they have formed what is effectively an establishment coalition based on the failed and rejected policies of the past - austerity, corporate tax cuts, privatisation."
“And it's precisely because those policies were seen to have failed and been rejected that the direction of the Labour party changed when Jeremy was elected and we demonstrated that a different approach has mass electoral appeal and we will continue to pursue those policies and that approach.”
The Labour leader's spokesman also dismissed deputy leader Tom Watson’s call for a shake-up of the frontbench to include more moderate MPs in order "to reflect the balance of opinion" within the party.
He said: “We have a very strong Shadow Cabinet and shadow ministerial team and as time goes on we'll continue to develop that team.”
However, the spokesman insisted that Mr Corbyn was committed to reaching out to MPs on all wings of the party.
"Of course Jeremy and the whole Labour party leadership is committed to engaging with the whole Parliamentary Labour Party and the membership,” he said.
“One of the hallmarks of his leadership is his determination to talk to and listen to MPs in the whole party and that will carry on.”