Seven MPs including Yorkshire's Angela Smith quit Labour to form independent group

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith speaks at the press conference. Picture: PA
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith speaks at the press conference. Picture: PA
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Seven Labour MPs, including Penistone and Stocksbridge's Angela Smith, have quit the party in a major blow for leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Mrs Smith, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Chuka Umunna announced their decisions at a press conference in London on Monday.

Ms Berger initially introduced herself as "the Labour Party MP", before correcting herself and saying: "I am the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree".

She said: "This morning we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision.

"We represent different parts of the country, we are of different backgrounds, we were born of different generations, but we all share the same values.

"From today, we will all sit in Parliament as a new independent group of MPs."

The decision of the seven MP is announced at a press conference in London today.

The decision of the seven MP is announced at a press conference in London today.

Former Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher to quit Labour amid concerns over 'institutional' anti-semitism

Simmering tensions within Labour ranks over Mr Corbyn's approach to leaving the European Union and the party leadership's handling of anti-Semitism allegations have prompted the schism.

Setting out her reasons for leaving, Mrs Smith spoke about her family background and the sense of working class pride that meant "believing we can do better".

She said: "Most people are like my family. They do not want to be patronised by left-wing intellectuals, who think being poor and working class constitutes a state of grace.

Angela Smith.

Angela Smith.

"What they do want is for a fair crack of the whip and the opportunity to succeed.

"They also believe that everyone in our country bears a responsibility to make a contribution towards keeping our society safe and prosperous.

"But these values are no longer valid in today's Labour Party. That is why I have made the very painful decision to resign my membership and come an independent MP."

In a statement posted on her website, she said the Labour Party of 2019 "is characterised by lazy, populist thinking which promises nothing but a tortured, divided future for our country".

She added: "Hating the Tories and blaming the private sector for all of society’s ills may sound good to those who look for simple explanations and simplistic answers to our complex problems but will do nothing realistically to build the wealth necessary to provide the resources for our precious public services.

"Not only that, much of the Labour agenda under Corbyn is deeply ideological. It is an agenda which would lead to a concentration of economic power in the hands of a few politicians at the top, despite all protestations to the contrary by John McDonnell.

"A Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister would chill the very marrow of our economy, destroying jobs and stifling innovation. An authoritarian approach to running the country, familiar to citizens who lived under the horrors of the Soviet Union, beckons if these people ever get hold of the levers of power."

Mrs Smith was born in 1961 and spent her early years in Grimsby and her father was a printer and former fisherman.

After studying at night school for her A Levels, she attended Nottingham University and moved to Sheffield, where she became a lecturer at Dearne Valley College teaching English to post 16-year-olds until leaving in 2003.

She won the Sheffield Hillsborough parliamentary seat in 2005 and at the 2010 election, she was re-elected to Parliament as the member for the new constituency of Penistone & Stocksbridge.

In November, she become the latest Labour MP to have a motion of no confidence in her passed by her local constituency party.

Local Labour members in Penistone and Stocksbridge voted 27 to 20 in a general committee (GC) meeting to express no confidence in their MP. Smith later called them a “a cabal of hard left members” and accused the CLP of “internal political posturing”.

In response to today's press conference, Labour leader Jeremy 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 alternative plan. 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."

Opening the press conference, Ms Berger accidentally introduced herself as "the Labour Party MP", before correcting herself and saying: "I am the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree".

She said: "This morning we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision.

"We represent different parts of the country, we are of different backgrounds, we were born of different generations, but we all share the same values.

"From today, we will all sit in Parliament as a new independent group of MPs."

Ms Berger said she had become "embarrassed and ashamed to remain in the Labour Party".

"I have not changed. The core values of equality for all, opportunity for all, anti-racism against all and social justice - the values which I hold really dear and which led me to join the Labour Party as a student almost 20 years ago - remain who I am.

"And yet these values have been consistently and constantly violated, undermined and attacked, as the Labour Party today declines to my constituents and our country before party interests.

"I cannot remain in a party which I have come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic."