Sunday shows: Watson, Gardiner, McDonnell on splits, antisemitism, Brexit

The Andrew Marr Show

Ex-Labour MP Luciana Berger appeared with former Conservative backbencher Heidi Allen. She said Labour had “betrayed its promise” on Brexit; asked about the differences between the Independent Groups MPs on policy, she explained they will be trying to “reach consensus” based on evidence.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, who appeared on Marr only two weeks ago, talked about Labour’s antisemitism cases, revealing he had 50 cases passed on to him by parliamentary colleagues this week, plus Brexit and another referendum.

  • On MPs quitting Labour: “I know we’re in a crisis. The departure of our colleagues is a real blow to us, and we need to understand why they felt they need to go, because if we’re going to be in government, we need to address those concerns.”
  • On whether Jeremy Corbyn needs to change: “Of course Jeremy needs to understand that if we are going to be in No 10, he needs to change the Labour Party.”
  • On the 50 new cases: “I think [Corbyn] needs to take a personal lead on examining those cases.”
  • On the general secretary’s handling of antisemitism: “Very patently, the Jennie Formby reforms have not the been adequate. They have not succeeded.”
  • On Emily Thornberry saying she would rather die than leave Labour: “I think it’s incumbent on all of us to dial down the rhetoric.”
  • On Brexit: “We need to really unify our party membership around the conference position… I think that would steady the concerns that our councillors, MPs and active members have about the direction we’re taking.”
  • On backing an amendment in favour of another referendum: “We’re moving in that direction.”
  • On ways to stop MPs leaving, Watson said he would “prefer a reshuffle” of the shadow cabinet, but said if that didn’t happen, he’d set up a policy group of “social democratic” Labour MPs.

Ridge on Sunday

Chuka Umunna talked about quitting Labour to form The Independent Group, abuse and antisemitism in Labour and refusing to fight a by-election.

  • On abuse in Labour: “I’ve received threats from supporters of the leader where I’ve had to call in the police and someone was arrested… There is a rule by fear.”
  • On whether Corbyn is antisemitic: “I don’t know whether he is personally antisemitic. His actions would seem to suggest he’s got questions to answer on that front but I’ve been very clear that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic.”

Barry Gardiner, Shadow International Trade Secretary, offered his take on Umunna’s interview and on the rest of The Independent Group, plus Labour’s handling of antisemitism and Brexit.

  • On Chuka Umunna: “The reason that he wanted to leave the Labour Party was because he knew he could never be the leader.”
  • On the MPs who quit Labour: “I have very little time for the others in that Independent Group but actually for Luciana [Berger] I was deeply saddened.”
  • On Labour and antisemitism: “Is there a problem?  Yes, there is. How large is that problem in terms of numbers?  It’s tiny. Are we dealing with it? We didn’t deal with it fast enough but we now are and we are getting on top of it.”
  • On another EU referendum: “The closer we get to no-deal, the more important that safety net of a second referendum… what I think we’re seeing in this coming week is the movement towards that.” 
  • But… “If we’re going to the people it has to be on a real choice of something that is credible, her deal is not credible.” Gardiner referred back to his idea of Labour backing a referendum if it offered the choice of its own alternative Brexit plan.
  • On the Kyle/Wilson amendment: “There has been a helpful amendment from Phil Wilson and Peter Kyle but actually unfortunately that would mean focusing on support for the Prime Minister’s deal.  So there are talks going on with them, I hope we’ll find a way through.”

Backbench MP Stella Creasy ruled out leaving Labour and said she was “standing with the Jewish Labour Movement”, a party-affiliated organisation chaired by Luciana Berger.

Pienaar’s Politics

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, offered encouraging words to anti-Brexit campaigners and supporters of the Kyle/Wilson amendment that would see MPs vote for Theresa May’s deal on the condition it was put to the public in another referendum.

  • On a fresh EU referendum: “We’ve said to break the deadlock we’re going to have to now start think about moving towards a public vote… that will mean amendments coming up.”
  • On the Kyle/Wilson amendment: “We’re working with them to see can we have a redraft of that amendment that people could vote for. I think there’s a high possibility that we could.”

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