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East Anglian Labour activists pledge support after seven MPs defect

PUBLISHED: 12:02 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:03 18 February 2019

Labour MPs (left to right) Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Chuka Umunna and Gavin Shuker announce 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

Labour MPs (left to right) Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Chuka Umunna and Gavin Shuker announce 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

Labour activists in Suffolk and Essex have reacted with sadness to the departure of seven moderate MPs who have left their party – but insist there should not be widespread defections among the grassroots.

Seven MPs: Chris Leslie, Chukka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, and Ann Coffey have resigned from the Labour Party and now plan to sit as an Independent group in the House of Commons.

At a press conference in London they issued a statement saying: “As an Independent Group we aim to recognise the value of healthy debate, show tolerance towards different opinions and seek to reach across outdated divides and build consensus to tackle Britain’s problems.”

Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin was very disappointed by the departures. He said: “I would like to emphasise that the Labour Party has always been the party of the people – the party that introduced the NHS and built council houses so people had somewhere decent to live.”

He felt sorry for Labour voters in the MPs’ constituencies who had voted for them but now found they were not representing the party.

Suffolk county councillor Jack Abbott, who represents the Bridge division in Ipswich, worked for Luton South MP Gavin Shuker until the end of last year.

He said “I believe that the Labour Party is at its best as an inclusively broad church and I’m incredibly sorry that these seven MPs no longer see their future within our Party.

“For my part, I will continue to work hard as a proud Labour and Co-operative county councillor, fighting for a high-class, inclusive education system in Suffolk and campaigning for our Party, week-in, week-out.”

In Colchester there have been tensions between Momentum supporters and longer-established Labour figures – but deputy council leader Tim Young rejected the idea that people should leave the party.

He said: “I think there will be some dismay at this, but I hope people do not use this to try to start to purge those that they disagree with in the party.

“I shall stay to try to ensure that the party continues to represent the full spectrum of Labour members. I do feel they (the seven MPs) have been self-indulgent because they have had differences with the party leadership.”

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