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MPs told splitting from Labour risks ‘decade’ of Conservative government | Politics News

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Senior Labour figures have warned MPs against splitting away from the party – claiming it could risk a decade of Conservative government.

There have been growing reports a group of disaffected Labour MPs could quit the party due to their disgruntlement with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit, as well as his handling of antisemitism allegations.

But both ex-foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett and Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a key ally of Mr Corbyn, warned against the consequences of such a move.

Dame Margaret told MPs that breaking off from Labour “wouldn’t be good for them or for the party”.

She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: “There are people, I know, who have been working desperately hard – people outside the Labour Party – who have been working hard for years to try to persuade the Labour Party to split. I think it’s a big mistake.

“I hope none of my colleagues take that advice because it’s the worst possible advice they can have.

“At the most basic and brutal: If you want to change an organisation, you don’t change it by leaving it.”



Margaret Beckett speaks to Sophy Ridge



Beckett: Labour split a ‘big mistake’

Mr McDonnell urged MPs to learn the lessons of history, after a “gang of four” quit Labour to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981.

Commenting on suggestions MPs could again quit Labour to join a breakaway party, Mr McDonnell told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It would be like the 1980s because my constituency in Hayes and Harlington – we had a Labour MP join the SDP and we lost the seat to the Conservatives.

“And it basically installed Mrs Thatcher in power for that decade.

“I don’t think any of the people who have even been mentioned around this split would want that.”

Among those reported to be thinking about leaving Labour are those anti-Brexit MPs who are pressuring Mr Corbyn to put his support behind a second EU referendum.

Mr McDonnell risked a fresh row between Labour’s leadership and its pro-EU MPs by suggesting a new public vote should only take place in extreme circumstances.

Referring to comments by Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite trade union and a key supporter of Mr Corbyn, Mr McDonnell said: “He’s said it’s not the best option because he’s saying, basically, you’d only go back to the people in extremis, if you can’t get a deal agreed through parliament.

“Or if you thought any deal wasn’t going to protect jobs and the economy, you’d have to go back to the people. I think that’s right.”

However, Mr McDonnell repeated Labour’s position that they could yet support a second EU referendum, should they fail to force a general election or persuade the prime minister to back a Brexit deal along their terms, including a permanent customs union.

He said: “I’m not giving up on a general election but… now’s the time – we really are at the end of the line now – and we’re saying to the government ‘you’ve got to come back with a realistic deal’.

“If it doesn’t fly within parliament, yes the option of going back to the people has got to be there.”

Mr McDonnell also said the Labour leadership would “look at” a proposal by two of the party’s MPs for a “confirmation referendum” to be held on a Brexit deal, should a withdrawal agreement be approved by the House of Commons.

Labour MP Chris Leslie, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a second EU referendum, accused Mr McDonnell of “rowing back” on the party’s policy of supporting a fresh Brexit vote if a general election is not forthcoming.

He posted on Twitter: “So John McDonnell says #PeoplesVote only ‘in extremis’ & maybe ‘we’ll look at it’…. Clearly rowing back on Labour’s conference policy

“There’s a disastrous #Brexit in less than 1000 hours. And @UKLabour stands on the sidelines pretending to face all ways. What an utter tragedy.”

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