Rumours of a split by Remain-backing Labour MPs continue to grow, with new reports of a break-away group forming ‘within days’.
Although the ‘Valentine’s Day split’ did not take place yesterday, talk of resignations over the weekend continues.
The Mirror‘s Kevin Maguire writes in Total Politics: “Resignations are expected to begin within days. First to depart the party, according to informed sources, will be prominent figures outside parliament followed by MPs on the green benches.
“Five names keep coming up: Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Luciana Berger. A sixth, Ann Coffey, is also heard and she’s been seen dining with the plotters. Lack of point blank denials speak volumes, Umunna and Smith trotting out a rehearsed co-ordinated line that Corbyn’s driving them to the edge and it’s a leader’s responsibility to hold a party together.”
Ben Bradshaw, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, reportedly cautioned against the split last night.
But in Thursday’s Brexit debate, former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie said backbenchers were “being played for fools by the leadership”.
“By now we should have reached the stage of a public vote…Nobody can explain to me seriously why we are not at that particular stage right now,” he told MPs.
“Our party political system is shattered and it is broken. It is letting our country down at a crucial time… what we are seeing is party-political advantage tragically [being put] ahead of the national interest.”
He said Labour was “regressing on our policy passed at the September conference” by refusing to mention the option of a people’s vote in the leadership’s amendment to the PM’s statement.
Responding to rumours of a split, deputy leader Tom Watson told BBC Radio 4’s World At One on Thursday: “I want this party to stay together. People should stay and fight their corner. We need an electorally viable Labour Party.”
He said people should “do everything they can” to stop a breakaway.
Josiah Mortimer is editor of Left Foot Forward, and covering Sienna while she is away.