Frank Field has resigned the Labour Party whip, claiming that the party has “a culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation”.
In a letter to opposition chief whip Nick Brown, Field said the Labour leadership had become “a force for antisemitism in British politics” and criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s “attempts… to deny that past statements and actions by him were anti-Semitic”.
The veteran MP explained to Nick Brown that a “specific bullying issue” also contributed to his decision as the party had failed to take “decisive action” following “numerous complaints”.
Field will now sit as an Independent Labour member, and intends to remain a member of the Labour Party. A statement released by the MP today made clear that he would seek to apply for the Labour whip in the future, but Field said there would have to be a “great change” in the leadership’s position on antisemitism and bullying.
The Brexiteer MP was recently threatened with deselection by his local party. In July, Labour members in Birkenhead constituency Labour party (CLP) passed a motion of no confidence in Field and called for the immediate withdrawal of the Labour whip.
The CLP cited his voting record in parliament and “inappropriate” media appearances as reasons for their emergency motion. One of the local branch secretaries also said Field “refuses” to attend party meetings.
Below is Frank Field’s resignation letter to opposition chief whip Nick Brown in full.
I am writing with considerable sadness to inform you of my intention to sit as an Independent Labour Member of Parliament. I am resigning the whip for two principal reasons.
The first centres on the latest example of Labour’s leadership becoming a force for anti-Semitism in British politics. The latest example, from last week, comes after a series of attempts by Jeremy to deny that past statements and actions by him were anti-Semitic. Britain fought the Second World War to banish these views from our politics, but that superhuman effort and success is now under huge and sustained internal attack. The leadership is doing nothing substantive to address this erosion of our core values. It saddens me to say that we are increasingly seen as a racist party. This issue alone compels me to resign the whip.
The second reason is that a culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation now reigns in too many parts of the Party nationally and is sadly manifest within my own Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in Birkenhead. This is, I fear, just one example of a phenomenon that has tightened its grip on CLPs across the country and is being driven, in part, by members who in previous years would never have been able to claim Labour Party membership.
My original submission to the party on a specific bullying issue goes back eighteen months. Many submissions have since come from me as well as from loyal Party members. No decisive action has been taken. At best, the Party’s failure to act on these numerous complaints about the thuggish conduct of some members demonstrates a wilful denial. At worst, it serves to legitimise appalling levels of bullying and intimidation of lifelong Labour supporters.
You know that I wrote to the Labour Party nine months ago about the atrocious behaviour of the then councillor Louise Reecejones. That Ms Reecejones should not be a member of the Party, let alone represent us in public positions, has been underscored by decisions taken by Wirral Council.
As you know, she was found guilty of using her position as a councillor to intimidate members of the public. She has refused to apologise properly for her behaviour, and for breaching the Council’s code of conduct, even though one of those on the receiving end of her attack has only now a precarious hold on their livelihood.
The charge sheet against this individual’s suitability ever to hold office, let alone represent the Labour Party, has been detailed to you in separate correspondence. While she was withdrawn as a Council candidate in Wallasey, she has still been able to join the Party’s shortlist for another seat and continues to hold an official position within the local Party.
I intend to continue to represent Birkenhead in Westminster, as I have had the honour to do so for almost 40 years, and I will continue to do so as an Independent Labour Member. I shall of course remain a Party member as I have been since 1960. The values I have espoused during this time will be same that will continue to govern my conduct and I also intend, providence willing, to represent those views when the next election is called.
Few events would give me greater pleasure than to apply to the Parliamentary Labour Party for the whip. But great changes in the leadership’s stance on the issues outlined in this letter will need to take place before I will be able to do so.