Seven MPs quit British Labour Party over anti-Semitism and Brexit

MPs cited a culture of 'bullying' and 'bigotry' and said it had been hijacked by the 'extreme left'

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Labour MP Luciana Shuker announces her resignation from the Labour Party at a press conference on February 18, 2019 in London, England. Chukka Umunna MP along with Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Anne Coffey and Mike Gapes have announced they have resigned from the Labour Party and will sit in the House of Commons as The Independent Group of Members of Parliament. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
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Seven UK opposition MPs quit their party on Monday with a damning broadside against the former leadership and a call for politicians from all sides to join a new independent movement.

At the launch of a new party in London, the seven said that no current major party was fit to run the country and that their “racist, anti-Semitic” leadership had let them down over Brexit and its culture of bullying and intimidation.

The MPs were most damning of the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, who had allowed the party to be “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left”, said one of the MPs Chris Leslie.

Mike Gapes, a veteran MP, said that a government led by Mr Corbyn would represent a “threat to national security and international alliances”.

The MPs said that Mr Corbyn had chosen to believe states that were hostile to the UK rather than their own police and security services.

The split from the party to form what the MPs said would be called the Independent Group has been long mooted. The breakaway by seven of 262 Labour MPs elected in 2017 will be watched closely for other potential defectors, with little more than a month before the UK leaves the European Union.

British politics has been deeply divided following the 2016 Brexit referendum with rebels from both main parties, the ruling Conservatives and opposition Labour, voting against their leaderships in debates.

The most high-profile of the defectors is Chukka Umunna, who briefly stood as a leadership contender of his party. He is seen as a pro-European moderate who has been increasingly out of step with his party as it shifted to the left.

“We have taken the first step in leaving the old tribal politics,” he said as he urged MPs from other parties to join them.

Luciana Berger, another of the MPs, said that she had been embarrassed and ashamed by Labour’s failure to crack down on hatred against Jewish people within its ranks.

“I’m leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation,” she said.

In a statement on Facebook, Mr Corbyn said he was “disappointed” at the decision by the MPs.

“The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan,” he said.

Mr Corbyn emerged as the surprise winner of his party’s 2015 leadership election after tapping into a groundswell of support from young party activists.