Labour MP Chuka Umunna who has announced his resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker, who will be known as the Independent Group.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna who has announced his resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker, who will be known as the Independent Group.


Photo:

Stefan Rousseau/Zuma Press

A British political party splintered on Monday, and for once it wasn’t the ruling Conservatives. Seven members of the Labour opposition resigned from the party in protest over leader Jeremy Corbyn’s inconstant dealing on Brexit and tolerance for anti-Semitism.

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The rebel Members of Parliament include Chuka Umunna, the party’s former spokesman on business affairs, and Luciana Berger, who has endured anti-Semitic abuse by Corbyn supporters. All seven have held senior party positions and hail from the centrist wing in charge during the Tony Blair era. They aren’t forming a new political party and will keep their seats while voting as independents.

All seven cited the excuse-making of Mr. Corbyn and his allies regarding abuse of Jewish members, spread of anti-Jewish tropes and sympathy for anti-Israel terrorists. The number of such cases referred to the party for disciplinary proceedings has skyrocketed under Mr. Corbyn, yet last summer he resisted formalizing an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism in party rules. The willingness of the rebels to leave raises questions about why so many others are still working for Mr. Corbyn.

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As for Brexit, this is the latest evidence that Britain’s impending departure from the European Union is scrambling domestic politics. Both major parties remain deeply divided on Brexit and the bigger question of what the British economy should be after it leaves. Theresa May’s Conservatives are split between free-market Brexiteers and Remainers who are woolier on economics.

Mr. Corbyn supports Brexit in line with a left-wing view of the EU as a capitalist plot whose rules would obstruct his socialist agenda. Some of the party’s blue-collar base favor Brexit but not Mr. Corbyn’s socialism. The party also contains many younger, urban voters—whom the rebels purport to represent—who favored Remain in the 2016 referendum and are angry that Mr. Corbyn hasn’t taken a stronger stand against Brexit.

Monday’s rebellion won’t resolve these tensions. But the rebels are among the few British politicians prepared to nail their colors to a mast. Too many Labour politicians have prized party loyalty over principle in the fight against Mr. Corbyn’s anti-Semitism, or have been too afraid of his vicious supporters on social media to take a stand. Mrs. May and Mr. Corbyn have resisted most serious votes in Parliament over Brexit to avoid forcing their members to make splintering choices.

Britain’s only way out of its current political mess is for politicians to start making tough decisions. The Labour rebels have performed a public service by doing what too many other politicians won’t.



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