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Independent group: Labour MPs fear more will quit as emotions run high at party meeting

John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry attend heated PLP gathering

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
,Samuel Osborne,Zamira Rahim
Monday 18 February 2019 15:23 GMT
Luciana Berger announces Labour MPs quitting to form Independent Group

Emotions ran high at the Parliamentary Labour Party's weekly meeting as MPs reeled from the resignation of seven of their colleagues.

Ian Austin - a prominent critic of Jeremy Corbyn - told journalists gathered outside that he believed more people are considering taking the same course of action as those who splintered from the party on Monday morning at a surprise press conference.

Another politician described the meeting as a "complete and utter waste of time".

Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith and Chuka Umunna have all resigned the whip, in what is being seen as the most significant split in British politics since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s.

The parliamentarians will now sit as an “Independent Group” as they appeal to MPs from all parties to “leave the old tribal politics behind".

During the party meeting MPs Ruth Smeeth and Stella Creasy both said they would remain in the organisation, but Ms Smeeth was said to be visibly upset as she addressed colleagues during a short speech.

Some of Labour's top team attended the meeting including the shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry.

The Labour leader himself was not present at the event as he was attending a funeral outside of London, a source told The Independent.

Tom Watson earlier warned Jeremy Corbyn that more Labour MPs will quit the party unless he agrees to changes.

Labour’s deputy leader spoke out after seven MPs announced their immediate resignations from the party, hitting out at Mr Corbyn’s leadership and policies on Brexit and antisemitism.

Ms Berger said in a speech on Monday that Labour had become “institutionally antisemitic” and added: ”I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation.”

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There were some early signs on Monday evening that The Independent Group might attract support from disenfranchised Conservatives to the new centre-ground anti-Brexit grouping in the chamber.

If you would like to see how the day's events unfolded live please see what was our live coverage below:


Welcome to The Independent's live coverage of the day's political events.

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:06

Significant rumours swirling around this morning that a group of Labour MPs will be leaving the party.

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:08

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he did not see "any need for anybody to split from the party" but Labour MP Stephen Kinnock said "there probably will be some kind of splintering."

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:09

Laura Kuenssberg suggests its not just rumours, seems likely more details will emerge this morning.

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:12

A group of Labour MPs will be making an announcement at 10am this morning. 

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:16

A no-deal Brexit will lead "virtually instantaneously" to price rises on popular food products in shops, the head of Birds Eye in the UK has warned.

The frozen food specialist's managing director for the UK and Ireland, Wayne Hudson, said manufacturers would have to pass tariffs of up to 20 per cent on to retailers, who would themselves have to decide how much of the extra cost to pass on to shoppers.

Mr Hudson said the uncertainty around Brexit was "seriously delaying our ambitious plans for continued growth" and imposing additional costs, with four of the company's senior executives focused entirely on contingency planning.

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:26

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn left his home in Islington, north London at around 8.15am and got into a waiting car.

When asked by reporters whether he is expecting resignations, or if his party is in trouble, Mr Corbyn replied, with a slightly irritated tone: "Good morning, how nice it is to see you all here."

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:32

Long-standing Corbyn-critic and Remainer Peter Kyle MP confirms he will not be leaving the party. He says he is focused on helping to form a Brexit compromise.

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:34

David Lidington has dismissed suggestions on Today that last week's visits to Brussels by ministers including himself and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay were no more than "courtesy calls".

They are a lot more than courtesy calls. It was a very useful discussion about the politics both within the United Kingdom and within the EU27 and a scoping-out of what was possible.

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:35

Theresa May had made clear that she wanted to "reopen" the Withdrawal Agreement to secure legal reassurance on the backstop, said Mr Lidington, though he accepted that would be "very difficult".

Whenever I have sat down with the Prime Minister in private, I have heard nothing from her other than an absolute determination to get the right deal for this country, for every part of this country, for every sector of industry.

It is a determination that is driving her forward. She believes, rightly, that it is a democratic duty to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum, but at the same time to protect jobs, investment and living standards of ordinary families up and down this country. That's what she's about, that's what I'm about."

Shehab.Khan18 February 2019 08:36

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