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Labour split could usher in another 15 years of Tory government, Norwich MP says

Clive Lewis MP has warned Labour resignations could lead to a longer Tory government. Photo: Neil Perry

Clive Lewis MP has warned Labour resignations could lead to a longer Tory government. Photo: Neil Perry

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Norwich MP Clive Lewis has claimed seven MPs who resigned from the Labour party may cause the Conservatives to hold on to power for another 10 to 15 years.

Former Labour MPs (left to right) Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna after they announced their resignations during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, to create a new Independent Group in the House of Commons. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireFormer Labour MPs (left to right) Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna after they announced their resignations during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, to create a new Independent Group in the House of Commons. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey are among the MPs from the party’s centrist wing who have been the loudest critics of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, his stance on Brexit and his handling of allegations of anti-Semitism.

And the group announced on Monday they were resigning from Labour to form the Independent Group, representing the most significant split to hit the party since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the early 1980s.

Mr Lewis, who represents Labour in Norwich South, said it was a “really sad day for the Labour Party”.

He said: “We’ve been here before in the past. We have very fractious politics at the moment and that consequently means that some people will feel they need to go their separate ways.”

But Mr Lewis said the move was futile, and could even keep the Tories in power for longer.

He said: “I understand these are difficult times, I came into politics to make a difference in people’s lives and the best way to do that is to be in the Labour Party. If you want to change the country for the better we can’t afford to split, I do not want to usher in another 10 to 15 years of Tory government, especially given what they’ve done to this country with the ideological battle over Brexit.

“Unfortunately today’s split makes that all the more likely, it doesn’t make it inevitable but it does not strengthen us.”

Mr Lewis said he understood the concerns around anti-Semitism and the handling of Brexit which had driven the MPs to leave. He said: “With someone like Luciana Berger, you can’t dismiss it. As a black MP if I stood up and said there’s an issue with racism I’d expect to be listened to. I think the party has listened and is reacting [to anti-Semitism].”

He also said there were many Labour MPs who had issues with the tackling of anti-Semitism and Brexit, and were struggling to “square up” their personal views with the current political climate.

But he said the first past the post election system meant MPs were stronger in the Labour Party, where he felt there was a chance to make change. He added: “We as a Labour Party have to come back to this and move forward.”

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