Labour tensions lead to Westminster split, and Tories face same

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The Labour Party will be fortunate if its total losses to the new Independent Group of MPs stays at only seven, the number who broke away yesterday.

A meeting of Labour’s parliamentary party last evening in the wake of the defections was reported to have been stormy, with accusations that the party had failed to get to grips with anti-Semitism within Labour, and was followed by warnings of more possible resignations.

The departure of the seven MPs included Chuka Umunna, a man who was once talked of as a future Labour leader.

Now, under Jeremy Corbyn’s stewardship, he has quit alongside his six disillusioned colleagues, all of them citing the party stance on Brexit and other issues, as well as its response to the anti-Semitism allegations.

The row is hardly surprising given that Mr Corbyn has seemed over the decades to ally himself with Palestinian groups that claim to be victims of Israeli racism, but are in fact viciously anti-Semitic terrorists, and has also seemed sympathetic to Irish terrorists, who also played victim while inflicting massive violence and distress on society.

That Derek Hatton, the hard left activist, was yesterday reported to be back in Labour as a member tells you much about where the party now is ideologically, and the struggle that moderates face in bringing it back to the political centre.

But while Mr Corbyn’s track record of extremist views means that he will get little sympathy if his party falls apart, the Tories are hardly in a position to be satisfied about events. They too are on the verge of a bitter split over Brexit.

It might yet be that Conservative backbenchers join the Independent Group, as in 1981 a Tory MP joined the two dozen or so Labour MP defectors to the SDP.

But even if so, the breakaway MPs will face a struggle to stay in parliamentary politics. Very rarely do any political movements, outside either the big two parties or the main centre party, survive in the House of Commons, if they even manage to get elected or re-elected to it in the first place.