Ilford South MP Mike Gapes quits Labour Party to join ‘Independent Group’

Mike Gapes

Mike Gapes - Credit: Archant

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes is among seven MPs to quit the Labour Party and join an Independent Group.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes is among seven MPs to quit the Labour Party and join an Independent Group.

The other MPs include former shadow cabinet ministers Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, alongside Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Ann Coffey, and Angela Smith.

The rebel group announced the news at a press conference this morning.

Mr Gapes, a former chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, told the press conference: “I am sickened that the Labour Party is now a racist, antisemitic party.

“I am furious that the 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.

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“A Corbyn Labour government would threaten our national security and international alliance.”

Mr Gapes explained the reasons behind his decision further in a letter to his constituents posted on Twitter.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes was one of seven Labour MPs to announce their decision to split with the

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes was one of seven Labour MPs to announce their decision to split with the party this morning. Photo: YouTube - Credit: Archant

“I have always considered myself Labour to my core,” he wrote.

However “recent political positions taken by the leadership of the Labour Party have been increasingly difficult to justify or support” he continued.

“This is not the Labour Party I have joined or have supported for so many years.”

Asked whether he will contest another general election, Mr Gapes told the Recorder he will decide once he knows when the next general election is.

“I am not making any decision about that at this stage,” he said.

In response to calls from some to resign as an MP and force a by-election, Mr Gapes said he is staying put.

“We are in the middle of the Brexit process – the last thing the country needs is a by-election,” he said.

“[At the last election] I stood on a strong pro-European platform and I have said I would fight for our country to stay in the customs union and single market.”

He explained that the “Independent Group” is not a rival party but a “group of MPs who work collectively and collaboratively”.

“We will decide on portfolios in coming weeks and we are appealing for other MPs to join us.”

“British is politics is broken – we need a new start.”

Reacting to the resignations, Mr Corbyn said: “I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945.

“Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few - redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change.

“The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan. When millions are facing the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness and poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he is “deeply distressed” by the Labour split, but admitted the party has been “shockingly poor” at dealing with antisemitism.

Mr Khan said: “It’s deeply distressing, all of these MPs are friends of mine.”

He blamed the Conservative Party for “the chaotic Brexit process”, but said Labour has not acted quickly enough to tackle anti-Semitism.

Mr Khan added: “The Labour Party has been shockingly poor at addressing the issue of antisemitism over the last few years.

“We know that there are members of the Labour Party who have joined who have clearly anti-Semitic views, or have been in our party for some time and have clearly anti-Semitic views, the Labour Party hasn’t acted swiftly enough to kick them out.”

But he said he believed the Labour divide will make it more difficult for the party to be elected to govern.

Mr Khan said: “History tells us that when the Labour Party splits, it leads to the Conservative Party winning the next election and the one after that and the one after that.

“What people I care about need is a Labour Government.

“One thing that’s going to make that more difficult is Labour splits.”

Mr Umunna ruled out the splinter group joining another political party.

He said: “There are going to be no mergers - we are not going to join the Lib Dems, let’s be absolutely clear about that.

“If there are other MPs who share our values we’re offering, then join our movement.”