STREATHAM MP: TIME’S RIGHT TO DITCH ‘OLD FASHIONED’ LABOUR
BY TOBY PORTER
Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has resigned from the Labour party, saying he will sit as part of a new independent group.
He said the country needed a politics which was “fit for the here and now”.
Mr Umunna was one of seven to quit the party in a dramatic revolt against the direction taken by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.
The rebels yesterday morning held a launch event to signal their intention to create a new cross-party consensus.
“Established parties are simply not up to the challenge,” Mr Umunna said. “They are deeply divided. They represent the complex tapestry which is modern Britain. We have got to change our politics again.
“We invite you to leave your parties and help us form a new consensus on a way forward for Britain.”
He tweeted after the launch: “I became a political activist to serve my community and to change the country for the better. My decision today – which has been painful and difficult – is rooted in the values and principles which I have always held.
“What’s happened to the Labour party is a symptom of the dysfunctional state of British politics – it shows why fundamental change is so badly needed. It is time to dump the old fashioned parties to create an alternative – parties for the 21st century, not the last one. We have invited others who share our values to do so, too.
“You do not join parties to spend years fighting the people within it – you join to change the world.”
Mr Umunna, whose father died in a car crash when his son was 13, is a quarter English, a quarter Irish and half Nigerian.
“My father arrived with no money and became a successful entrepreneur,” he told the meeting. “The platform this country gave him was Britain at its very best.
“But too many face barriers in fulfilling their dreams and potential.
“The established parties cannot be the change because they have become the problem. They have failed to provide the leadership the UK needs.”
Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree, another of the members, said it had been a “difficult, painful but necessary decision” for them all.
The other five MPs are Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey.
Ms Berger said she had become “embarrassed and ashamed” to be in the Labour party because of its failure to tackle antisemitism in its ranks. She said: “I am leaving behind a culture of bullying bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other,”
she said. Umunna, who has represented Streatham since 2010, said the group had “taken the first step” and urged other Labour MPs -– and members of other parties -– to join them in “building a new politics”.
“Politics is broken, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s change it,” he said at the launch event in central London.
The former shadow business secretary went to Christ Church Primary School in Brixton Hill and St Dunstan’s College, Catford.
He increased his majority to 13,934 at the 2015 General Election, with 53 per cent of the vote in his constituency.
He stood for the leadership election following the resignation of Ed Milliband, but three days later, withdrew from the contest, stating that he had been “uncomfortable” with “the added level of scrutiny that came with being a leadership candidate”.
Leslie, the MP for Nottingham East and a former shadow chancellor, said Labour had been “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left” and was no longer the party he and others had joined.
There has been speculation that several centrist Conservative politicians are also considering their future in the party over Theresa May’s EU policy.
In a statement, 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 plan. “When millions are facing the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness, poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for all of us.”