Jeremy Corbyn has issued a strong message to the 7 MPs who resigned from his party on Monday, saying that they stood in the 2017 general election representing a Labour manifesto, and that they “were elected to carry out those policies”.
He was speaking today at the manufacturers’ group Make UK’s annual conference. It was his first public appearance since the breakaway MPs announced they would sit as independently in parliament.
“I regret that seven MPs decided they would no longer remain part of the Labour party. I thank them for their work,” Corbyn said.
“I hope they realise they were elected to parliament on a manifesto that was based around investment in the future; that was based around a more equal and fairer society; that was based around social justice – and it is that programme that we are going to put to the electorate in the future, that does have enormous support. They were elected to carry out those policies. They decided to go somewhere else” he added.
Labour has increased the pressure on the seven MPs to trigger by-elections in their seats, and run against official Labour candidates. Corbyn is reportedly confident that official Labour candidates would be able to oust the seven defectors.
The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC that Labour needs to carry out a “mammoth listening exercise” to address criticisms from its own MPs. He also called for “dialogue” with the seven splitters.
“I think we’re finding a way forward but it’s got to be on the basis of taking the advice of people like [deputy leader] Tom Watson and the Parliamentary Labour Party and others” said McDonnell
He also addressed claims there could be up to 30 more defectors ready to quit Labour. If true, that would make the new independent group the 3rd largest bloc in parliament.
“I don’t think there is that scale” of defectors, he said.
In an interview today, Tory Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said the Labour split was is “not good”, adding that it’s important to have a “strong opposition”.
Ellwood also warned that the hard-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) are “coming to the point where they are tarnishing the brand of the [Conservative] party.”
He added that he wants the Tories to be a “compassionate and outward looking party” that is “attractive to the next generation”
"This is a very dark day for Labour."
Defence minister @Tobias_Ellwood says it's "not good" to see the Labour Party break up as it's important to have a "strong opposition".
— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) February 19, 2019