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More Labour MPs ‘perilously close’ to quitting, admits Tom Watson | Politics News

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Labour deputy leader Tom Watson believes other MPs are “perilously close” to quitting the party.

Following the recent departure of nine MPs – with the majority joining the new Independent Group in parliament – Mr Watson admitted he is concerned others could follow.

“I’m very worried about it and I think there are still a number of my colleagues who are perilously close to leaving,” he told Sky News.

Those who have left Labour criticised the party’s handling of antisemitism claims, Brexit policy and the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn as they explained the reasons for their exit.

Mr Watson described a “battle for the soul of the Labour Party” and claimed the decision by Jewish MP Luciana Berger to resign was “the most shameful day in the history of my party”.

Ms Berger, Liverpool Wavertree MP, has accused Labour of being “institutionally antisemitic”.

“She is a young, pregnant woman bullied out by racist thugs,” Mr Watson said. “That is completely unacceptable.”



Chuka Umunna



‘Racist and antisemitic’: Why MPs left

Labour’s latest antisemitism dispute has revolved around Derby North MP Chris Williamson, who claimed the party had been “too apologetic” over the issue.

Mr Williamson, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, was suspended by Labour on Wednesday pending an investigation, with Mr Watson among a number of MPs to have called for the action.

The Labour deputy leader denied suggestions he had threatened to quit – while taking 70 MPs with him – if the party did not remove the whip from Mr Williamson.

He added: “I’ve been elected to preserve the reputation of the Labour Party – which is a 120-year-old institution with a very proud record of fighting racism – and I’m not going to allow 500,000 members of the Labour Party to be tainted by racism.

“So when I see cases of antisemitism, from now on I’m going to be calling it out publicly.”



MP Chris Williamson has been 'suspended' by the Labour party



Chris Williamson ‘working to clear his name’

Asked about reports Mr Corbyn opposed Mr Williamson’s suspension, Mr Watson admitted he did not know “what Jeremy’s position was”, adding the decision was taken by Labour general secretary Jennie Formby.

But he did reveal he has asked Mr Corbyn to meet with him next week to “talk about what further measures we can take to eradicate antisemitism in the party”.

Labour is now formally backing a second referendum on Brexit, following Mr Corbyn’s failure to convince a majority in the House of Commons to back his alternative exit deal on Wednesday night.

Mr Watson denied the resignations of the nine MPs, the majority of whom are opposed to Brexit, had forced the party’s shift in policy.

Mr Watson is pushing for a greater range of views to be represented on Labour’s front bench as he confirmed plans to arrange a group of MPs away from the shadow cabinet to create their own policies.

He said: “Our front bench is made up of people who were prepared to serve under Jeremy two years ago.

“I’ve been arguing for some time now we need to change the balance on the front bench so different traditions that have formed the Labour Party can be more represented.”

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