Jeremy Corbyn hit by fresh blow as party heavyweight resigns
Veteran MP Frank Field has left Labour because of the anti-Semitism row that has engulfed the party over recent months
British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has suffered a fresh blow with the resignation from his Labour party of one of its moral heavyweights, the veteran backbench MP Frank Field.
Mr Field, who has represented the constituency of Birkenhead in the staunchly socialist Merseyside region for almost four decades, has left the party over the anti-Semitism row that has engulfed Labour over the last two months.
In a letter to the party Mr Field charge that Mr Corbyn’s leadership was overseeing an “erosion of our core values”.
“I am resigning the whip for two principal reasons,” he explained.
“The first centres on the latest example of Labour’s leadership becoming a force for anti-Semitism in British politics.
“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,” wrote Mr Field, who is the chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, an important parliamentary body, where he has been a thorn in the side of prime minister Theresa May’s Tory government on welfare issues.
“The leadership is doing nothing substantive to address this erosion of our core values,” he added.
Speaking to BBC Radio after releasing his letter, Mr Field said: “I’ve spoken to nobody about trying to organise other people following me, it’s just a decision that I’ve come to. This is not a campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.
“Jeremy, I think, will lead us into the next election, hence the urgency of my plea today.”
Although Mr Corbyn has not commented on Mr Field’s departure, Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader who is seen as a lightning conductor for Labour members opposed to the current leadership, mourned the loss.
“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 Field, who was first elected to his seat in 1979, has long been an anomaly in the Labour party. A staunch Catholic, he has socially conservative views and is one of a minority of Labour MPs which has supported Mrs May’s government during its battles to bring Brexit legislation through the House of Commons.
He was also an unlikely close confidant of Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who described him as a “good man”, but was also a key critic against the social policies of the Conservative-led coalition in power from 2010-15 that led to an explosion in the need for food banks in his constituency and across the nation.
He has once before fought off an attempt by the hard-left in Birkenhead to have him deselected from his seat, and is currently facing another attempt by the Momentum faction loyal to Mr Corbyn in the party.
Rumours within moderate Labour circles suggest that his departure may be the first of many to take place over the next few weeks before the party conference begins in Liverpool in late September.
Updated: August 31, 2018 12:18 AM