Connect with us


Labour split: John McDonnell denies further defections could be as high as 30 | Politics News



John McDonnell has left the door open to more Labour MPs quitting the party – but denied that as many as 30 are on the brink of leaving.

The shadow chancellor admitted the leadership would have to conduct a “mammoth listening exercise” to address concerns over Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism and Brexit.

He also called for “dialogue” with the seven splitters who are now independent MPs.

Questions are abound in Westminster about whether other MPs could follow the new bloc to force the downfall of the traditional two “parties of government”.

Ann Coffey, one of the seven splitters, told Sky News she was appealing to MPs from all parties to join them to “make a place in politics for views like ours”.

Several Tory rebels have ruled themselves out but BuzzFeed News reported around 30 Labour MPs were originally in talks about splitting.

Mr McDonnell struck a conciliatory tone as he spoke to journalists outside his home on Tuesday.

“I think we need a mammoth listening exercise, and to address some of those criticisms that have been made,” he said.

“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.”

He added he was “disappointed” the seven MPs – Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker – had left Labour but voiced hopes “we’ll maintain some form of dialogue”.

Labour MPs (left to right) Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna quit the party on Monday
Seven Labour MPs split off to form an independent group

The shadow chancellor also addressed the claims there could be up to 30 more defectors ready to quit Labour, which could make the independent group the third largest bloc in parliament.

“I don’t think there is that scale,” he said flatly.

His comments mark a significant change from Monday, when Mr McDonnell was asked what Labour would do differently to stop more MPs jumping ship.

“We’ll do what we’re doing always,” he said.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson had warned more groups of MPs could desert Labour in a stark warning to the leadership.

He admitted he “feared this day would come” and added: “I love this party but sometimes I no longer recognise it.”

Mr Corbyn ignored journalists’ questions on Tuesday morning, but said in a statement the day before he was “disappointed” at the splitters’ decision.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn has declined to answer journalists’ questions so far

He raised that at the 2017 election, where Labour won 262 out of 650 seats, the party “won people over on a programme for the many not the few”.

“The Conservative government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan,” he said.

“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.”

Advertisement Find your dream job