Eurosceptic MP resigns Labour Party whip over ‘anti-Semitism’

Frank Field says Labour ‘increasingly seen as a racist party’

Frank Field: relinquishing the Labour Party whip. Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty

Frank Field: relinquishing the Labour Party whip. Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty

 

Veteran Eurosceptic MP Frank Field has resigned the Labour Party whip, accusing the leadership of becoming “a force for anti-Semitism in British politics” and complaining about a culture of intolerance within the party.

Mr Field, who has been in parliament since 1979, said he would sit as an independent Labour MP but would remain a member of the party he joined in 1960.

In a letter to Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown, Mr Field complained about Jeremy Corbyn’s denial that some of his past statements 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,” he wrote.

Mr Field lost a confidence vote in his constituency Labour Party last month after he and three other Labour MPs voted with the Conservative government on Brexit legislation. Mr Field, along with Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer, have been threatened with deselection as candidates ahead of the next general election.

‘Culture of intolerance’

In his resignation letter, Mr Field complained 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 in Birkenhead”. He said he intended to seek re-election at the next general election and held open the prospect of regaining the party whip.

“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,” he said.

Wake-up call

Labour said Mr Corbyn thanked Mr Field for his service to the party but deputy leader Tom Watson said the resignation was a wake-up call.

“This is a serious loss to the party and I deeply regret Frank’s decision. It reflects both the deep divisions in the party and the sense of drift engulfing us. It is a major wake-up call. We cannot afford to lose people of such weight and stature,” Mr Watson said.

A longstanding Eurosceptic, Mr Field has, along with Ms Hoey, been the Conservatives’ most reliable ally on Brexit on the Labour benches. 

In Vienna on Thursday, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was little sign of any movement in Brussels towards embracing Theresa May’s Chequers proposals for Brexit.

“It’s going to be a very long, hard road ahead. Obviously, when there do appear to be signs of a change then that is encouraging, but I don’t think you can read too much into these. What I would say is the British government is working incredibly hard, we are leaving no stone unturned,” he said.

Austria’s foreign minister Karin Kneissl said the EU remained committed to its negotiating guidelines and that any Brexit deal would have to be consistent with them.

“I think we still have to stick to the directives which were drafted in March 2017, namely the negotiating is all done by Michel Barnier, ” she said.