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Redbridge Labour politicians 'saddened' and 'heartbroken' as Ilford South MP Mike Gapes leaves the party

PUBLISHED: 12:30 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:25 18 February 2019

Mayor Sadiq Khan with Cllr Jas Athwal, MP MIke Gapes and Val Shawcross

Mayor Sadiq Khan with Cllr Jas Athwal, MP MIke Gapes and Val Shawcross

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Ilford South MP Mike Gapes will be "deeply missed" following his resignation from the Labour Party, Redbridge's Labour group leader Jas Athwal has said.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes will be “deeply missed” following his resignation from the Labour Party, Redbridge’s Labour group leader Jas Athwal has said.

While Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, has said he is “heartbroken by the circumstances” which led to his colleague quitting the party – but he has ruled out following suit.

Mr Gapes, joined by six other rebel MPs, announced his decision to leave the party and form a rival “Independent Group” at a press conference this morning (February 18).

Reacting to the news, Council leader Cllr Athwal told the Recorder: “I’m saddened to see that several of our MPs have found it necessary to leave the Labour Party.

“I am especially sorry to see our local Ilford South MP Mike Gapes step down from Labour as he has been a committed local MP for many years and will be deeply missed in the party.”

“In Redbridge we have achieved incredible things together, through our MPs, our Labour council and with our hardworking Labour activists.

“I am committed to continuing this good work, representing our residents and providing the best possible services for the people of Redbridge.

“Despite any perceived political or ideological differences, we are a broad church in the Labour Party and more than that we are fundamentally a family.

“I am a collectivist at heart and I believe these divisions make us weaker, not stronger so I will continue to work closely with my Labour colleagues locally and nationally to proceed through this difficulty together.

“My priority is, and has always been, local Redbridge people and I will stay focused on investing in our borough, protecting our critical services and delivering the results they all deserve.”

Mr Streeting told the Recorder he has “no intention of leaving the Labour Party and no intention of staying quietly”.

He said that the Ilford South MP has been his “friend and mentor for nearly two decades” and hopes they will remain friends for “many years to come”.

“[Mr Gapes] is Labour through and through,” he added.

“If the Labour Party isn’t big enough to accommodate Mike, then the party is in serious trouble.

“I will continue to speak up for what I believe to be in the best interests of our community and our country and will continue to stand up for the best traditions of the Labour Party from within.

“I have always believed that the Labour Party represents the best hope for social justice, equality and security for our country and that our movement is bigger than any one leader.

“This chapter in our history doesn’t have to be how the story ends.

“But that depends on how we are led and how we respond in the coming days, weeks and months.”

John Cryer, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead, said: “I am very sad to see the departure of Mike Gapes who has been a friend and neighbour of mine for many years.

“While we come different Labour traditions, Mike has always been an excellent constituency MP and we have always worked together very well.”

Mr Gapes explained his decision to leave the party in an open letter to his constituents shared on Twitter.

“I am sickened that Labour is now perceived by many as a racist, antisemitic party,” he said.

He accused Jeremy Corbyn and the party leadership of being “complicit in facilitating Brexit” by opposing key amendments and obstructing attempts to secure a People’s Vote.

“Jeremy Corbyn, and those around him, is also on the wrong side on so many international issues from Russia, to Syria, to Venezuela,” he added.

“If he ever became Prime Minister it would be a threat to our national security and international alliances.

Mr Gapes has served as Ilford North’s MP since 1992 and joined the Labour party 50 years ago, aged 16.

Among those are former shadow cabinet ministers Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, alongside Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Ann Coffey, and Angela Smith.

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.”

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