Little Mix were unable to mask their embarrassment during an awkward exchange with Jack Whitehall during this year’s Brit Awards, in which he brought up their recent beef with Piers Morgan and Jesy Nelson’s infamous Jamaican accent video.
Things started off well enough, with Jack confessing to the group that he’s a huge fan of theirs, but things then took a rather uncomfortable turn.
First off, he referenced having brought up the viral video of Jesy’s attempts at a Jamaican accent at last year’s ceremony, joking: “I’m under strict instruction not to mention it again. We’re just going to bring up your music and ting.”
And then, as Little Mix tried to keep their composure, he went into their recent split from Simon Cowell’s record label.
“When you left Simon Cowell girls, it raised a few eyebrows,” Jack said. “Not his, obviously, he’s lost all movement in his eyebrows. Is there any bad blood, or are you still friends?”
Jesy insisted they were all “still pals”, to which Jack continued: “Someone you do have beef with though, and I don’t want to use these words on a family show, Piers Morgan.”
As Jack referenced Piers’ harsh comments about their Strip video, Little Mix essentially performed a group eye roll, while the comedian went on: “Jesy, what would you say to that dutty wasteman?”
Jesy then offered a simple appalled “Jack!” by way of response, with the comedian asking: “What?! I want some beef at the Brits!”
It felt like things might finally be over when Jack said: “OK. This was awkward. I love Little Mix, though!”
He had one last dig, though, noting: “You girls have a wonderful time at the after party, night clubs, kebab shops or wherever you naughty Little Mixes get up to mischief.”
Last month, Jesy made headlines when she was seen snogging former Love Island star Chris Hughes in – you guessed it – a kebab shop.
As well as their awkward chat with Jack, Little Mix had a big year at the 2019 Brits, picking up their first ever Video Of The Year award for Woman Like Me and delivering one of the biggest performances of the night.
Jeremy Corbyn is heading for talks in Brussels in a bid to try to break the Brexit deadlock.
Ahead of the discussions with EU figures, the Labour leader called on Prime Minister Theresa May to abandon her Brexit “red lines” to secure a workable deal.
Corbyn said he would use the meetings with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and others on Thursday to stress that a no-deal Brexit does not command a majority in parliament.
The Labour leader said: “The Conservative government is running down the clock in an attempt to blackmail parliament into accepting Theresa May’s bad deal over a chaotic no deal.
“We are saying loud and clear that there is no majority for no-deal, and Labour will be working with politicians across the house to prevent a no-deal outcome which would be so damaging to our economy and communities. Labour respects the result of the referendum, but we do not support the prime minister’s damaging approach, which is focused more on appeasing factions of her party than finding a sensible solution that works for the whole country.
“With just 37 days until Brexit, Theresa May must accept that her historic defeats in parliament and complete failure to reach a new deal mean her approach has failed. She should abandon her damaging red lines and finally work with Labour to reach a deal which works for our country.”
Corbyn will be joined in Brussels by shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey.
It comes following a meeting between Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, after which the pair said they are “seized of the tight timescale” facing them after holding “constructive” talks.
The PM had travelled to Brussels to seek legal assurances on the Northern Ireland Brexit backstop she believes are needed to secure parliamentary approval for her deal.
A joint statement issued after the meeting said: “The two leaders agreed that talks had been constructive and they urged their respective teams to continue to explore the options in a positive spirit.
“They will review progress again in the coming days, seized of the tight timescale and the historic significance of setting the EU and the UK on a path to a deep and unique future partnership.”
The statement said discussions had looked at “which guarantees could be given with regard to the backstop that underline once again its temporary nature and give the appropriate legal assurance to both sides”.
Talks also covered “the role alternative arrangements could play in replacing the backstop in future”.
The statement added: “Both reconfirmed their commitment to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and to respect the integrity of the EU’s internal market and of the United Kingdom.”
The PM and Juncker agreed to talk again before the end of the month.
After the meeting, May said: “I have underlined the need for us to see legally binding changes to the backstop that ensure that it cannot be indefinite.
“That’s what is required if a deal is to pass the House of Commons.
“We have agreed that work to find a solution will continue at pace.
“Time is of the essence and it is in both our interests that when the UK leaves the EU it does so in an orderly way.
“So, we have made progress.”
What we were not expecting, though, was for him to top his previous efforts with an even better collection of pointed gags and quips, most of which were directed at the famous types in the audience.
Here’s just some of our favourites from his second hosting stint...
Taking the piss out of Fyre Festival in the opening montage:
Introducing the night’s opening act:
Actor, singer, entertainer – it’s Australia’s answer to Bradley Walsh, Hugh Jackman.”
Welcoming George Ezra to the stage:
If you like your coffee decaf and Nando’s Lemon and Lime, it’s the Prius of pop, George Ezra.”
Trailing Little Mix’s upcoming performance:
Their old boss Simon Cowell will be asking his surgeon to put a brave face on him if they win tonight.”
Introducing HER and Nile Rogers to the stage to present an award:
She’s joined by an artist who has so many awards that if he wins a Brit later, it will be lucky to act as a doorstop to his Grammy room.”
Joking about Westlife’s recent reunion:
Suddenly a hard Irish border doesn’t seem so bad.”
Chatting to Bros referencing their infamous documentary:
How does it feel to be H O M E at the B R I T S?”
During his introduction of Little Mix:
Girlbands tend to crash and burn quicker than Prince Phillip on a country drive.”
Remembering his encounter with Clara Amfo and Alice Levine last year:
Here to present the next award are two people who interviewed me on last year’s Backstage show slurring my words like Wayne Rooney in an airport.”
Reacting to Drake winning Best International Male:
Drake never turns up. Give it to Shawn Mendes – he bunked off school for this!”
Reacting to Ed Sheeran’s Global Success win:
Give that man a knighthood – preferably Philip Green’s.”
Introducing Bros to present Best British Video:
Two people who... fell harder than Gemma Collins on ice, and disappeared quicker than a winner on The Voice.”
Joking about getting rid of the Baby Shark dancers:
Take 'em away boys. Stick 'em with Niall Horan."
Introducing Winnie Harlow and Liam Payne to the stage:
Here's a supermodel and supermodel Naomi Campnbell's current squeeze. His surname's Payne which is what he'll be in a world of if he crosses her."
Talking to Little Mix about their feud with Piers Morgan:
Voluptuous breasts and four chins, it must have been like looking in the mirror for him."
Both acts scooped two prizes a piece at Wednesday night’s ceremony, which was held at London’s O2 Arena.
The 1975 walked away with two of the biggest awards, winning Best British Group and British Album Of The Year for A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.
However, their wins were pre-emptively revealed thanks to a huge TV gaffe.
An advert for the album complete with a message that confirmed they’d been awarded both prizes aired on UKTV Play, hours before the show had even begun.
Meanwhile, Calvin scooped the award for Best British Single for his number one smash One Kiss featuring Dua Lipa.
The night also saw him awarded Producer Of The Year, which host Jack Whitehall revealed is usually awarded during the ad break, but things had been changed up this year due to Calvin’s fame.
Pink was also awarded the Outstanding Contribution To Music gong, closing the show with a medley of her biggest hits.
Other performers on the night included Hugh Jackman, George Ezra, Little Mix and Calvin Harris.
Check out the full winners list below...
Florence And The Machine
Years & Years
Barking – Ramz
IDGAF – Dua Lipa
I’ll Be There – Jess Glynne
Leave A Light On – Tom Walker
Lullaby – Sigala and Paloma Faith
One Kiss – Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
Shotgun – George Ezra
Solo – Clean Bandit and Demi Lovato
These Days – Rudimental, Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Dan Caplen
2002 – Anne-Marie
Breathe - Jax Jones and Ina Wroldsen
For You – Rita Ora and Liam Payne
IDGAF – Dua Lipa
Let Me Love You – Rita Ora
One Kiss – Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
Rise – Jonas Blue and Jack & Jack
Solo – Clean Bandit and Demi Lovato
These Days – Rudimental, Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Dan Caplen
Woman Like Me – Little Mix
2002 – Anne-Marie
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975
High As Hope – Florence and the Machine
Lost & Found – Jorja Smith
Speak Your Mind – Anne-Marie
Staying At Tamara’s – George Ezra
Christine and the Queens
First Aid Kit
Nile Rodgers and Chic
Twenty One Pilots
An eighth Labour MP has announced she is quitting the party and will join the Independent Group in the House of Commons.
Joan Ryan, who represents Enfield North, blasted the party leadership’s “dereliction of duty in the face of this evil” as she hit out over a failure to tackle anti-Semitism.
Joining the new Independent Group (TIG), Ryan was another of the Labour breakaway MPs to underline her personal story and working class background as she tore strips out of Jeremy Corbyn’s stewardship of the party.
“I learned from my mum and dad the dignity of work and the evil of racism and prejudice,” she said, adding she joined the Labour Party to “stand up to racism in all its forms”.
“Over the past three years, however, the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism,” she said. “This problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader.”
She added: “I have been horrified, appalled and angered to see the Labour leadership’s dereliction of duty in the face of this evil.”
Ryan will join Luciana Berger, Chuka Ummuna, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey in walking out on Corbyn’s Labour to sit as independent MPs.
It comes as there remains just 38 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, with scores of Corbyn’s backbenchers demanding a second referendum.
In her press statement, Ryan picked out “courageous” Berger and “stalwart allies such as Tom Watson”, the deputy Labour leader whose response to the initial breakaway on Monday targeted the “tragedy” of the hard left.
The MP also took aim at Corbyn’s reluctance to condemn Vladimir Putin despite the widespread belief the Russian state was behind the Salisbury poisoning.
Describing Putin as the “head of a country which launched a chemical weapons attack on British soil”, she said “Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly refused to blame the Russian state”.
Ryan concludes her statement by hitting out at Theresa May’s “crippling hard Brexit” and says: “Jeremy Corbyn and the Stalinist clique that surrounds him offers no real opposition to any of this, instead they are too busy purging their perceived ideological enemies within and obsessing over issues that are of little interest to the British people.”
It comes after a stormy Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting on Monday in which high-profile Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy told colleagues Berger had faced “constructive dismissal” as a Labour MP in the wake of the anti-Semitism row in Labour.
Berger, who represents Liverpool Wavertree, has faced months of anti-Semitic abuse. Members of her local party had tabled, and later withdrew, a motion of no-confidence in her.
Speaking at a conference of manufacturers in London on Tuesday, Corbyn said he was “disappointed” the seven had decided to leave the party.
“I hope they recognise that they were elected to parliament on a manifesto that was based around investment in the future, was based around a more equal and fairer society and based around social justice,” he said.
“They were elected to carry out those policies, they decided to go somewhere else and I regret that because I want our party to be strong, I want our party to be united around the policies that we have put forward.”
A Sky Data online poll of 1,034 voters on February 19 put the Independent Group in third place across Britain on 10%, ahead of Liberal Democrats on 9%, Ukip on 6% and the Greens on 4%. Conservatives were leading on 32% to Labour’s 26%.
The poll suggested that the new group could eat into the support of both main parties, with 37% of those who said they would back the IG in an election having voted Labour and 27% Conservative in 2017, while another 24% said they did not vote.
Sajid Javid stands accused of “playing politics” after IS teen Shamima Begum was stripped of her British citizenship.
According to a letter sent to Begum’s family, the home secretary, who is viewed as a leading candidate to replace Theresa May, ordered the move against the 19-year-old Londoner on Tuesday.
It followed appeals from Begum to be allowed to return to the UK after she fled Bethnal Green for Syria as a 15-year-old to join the Islamic State terror group.
Javid now faces claims he is prepared to flout international law in order to pitch for the Tory leadership.
International rules forbid making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship, but it is possible Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, held dual citizenship.
Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s home affairs and justice spokeswoman and a barrister, told HuffPost UK: “Unless this young woman holds dual citizenship the home secretary’s action may be in breach of international law. There is also the welfare of an innocent child to be considered.
“One is left with the very strong suspicion that the home secretary is more concerned with playing to the gallery and furthering his leadership ambitions than with due process.”
Begum was part of a trio of girls from Bethnal Green Academy to travel to the war-torn nation to support the terror group in February 2015.
Her family’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, described her family as “very disappointed” over the move and said they are “considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision”.
The letter to her family read: “Please find enclosed papers that relate to a decision taken by the Home Secretary, to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship.
“In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today (19 February), and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made.”
Begum’s case was thrust back into the public eye after a reporter for The Times found the teenager heavily pregnant living in a refugee camp in northern Syria.
She gave birth to a boy over the weekend, having already lost two children, and used an interview with the newspaper to issue pleas for forgiveness, but her case has deeply divided opinion.
Javid’s decision to deny her re-entry to the UK follows an interview by Begum with the BBC on Monday, in which she compared the Manchester Arena bombing to military assaults on Syria.
Javid’s move provoked a strong reaction on social media, with some viewing it as a failure to defend human rights and others as a naked bid for the Tory top job.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has signalled Begum could be arrested and investigated if she returns to Britain.
When the teenager left the UK, the then chief of counter-terror policing Sir Mark Rowley suggested that she might be treated as a victim of grooming.
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey, meanwhile, Begum should face justice for any terrorism crimes in the UK.
“It is not only hard to see Ms Begum and her baby as constituting a serious threat to national security, but it also seems a huge wasted opportunity,” he added.
“We can learn lessons as to why a young girl went to Syria in the first place – lessons which could improve Britain’s security by helping us prevent this happening again.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “In recent days the Home Secretary has clearly stated that his priority is the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here.
“In order to protect this country, he has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless.
“We do not comment on individual cases, but any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly.”
Children could be put at risk if the UK leaves the EU without putting contingency plans in place for child protection, the UK’s four children’s commissioners have said in a letter.
Child abuse and exploitation, the abduction of children and how family law matters are dealt with if a child has one parent from the EU were all “immediate concerns” the czars said they have as Brexit approaches.
The government must explain how the UK will work with countries in the EU to protect children as it was unclear whether current child protection protocols will continue after 29 March.
In the letter, the commissioners sought assurances from Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay on what they say are the “immediate issues facing children” arising from Brexit.
Anne Longfield (England), Sally Holland (Wales), Bruce Adamson (Scotland) and
Koulla Yiasouma (Northern Ireland) said they continue to have reservations “about the degree to which children have been engaged and considered” during the Brexit process.
The letter from the four outlined the areas they were most worried about, which included co-operation on child protection and law enforcement as strategies for the prevention of child abuse and exploitation often involved international collaboration.
“The viewing and sharing of child abuse images nearly always involves a network, often international. This means an offender may be discovered elsewhere in the EU, but resident and presenting a threat to children in the UK. At present, pan-EU co-operation protocols enable such information to be shared swiftly.”
The letter said similar issues apply to children who are trafficked into the UK. “Generally, these children will arrive from Europe, even if their home country was outside the EU. Co-operation in identifying and tracking these children is vital both in protecting these children, giving aid to victims, closing down the networks, and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice.
“The importance of doing this does not end when children are identified within the UK, as a large proportion of child trafficking victims who are identified then go missing, and may end up in the EU.”
The commissioners said issues could arise with children who are abducted and taken to a European country. The co-operation of EU member states is vital when working together to protect the child, they added.
“This is just one of many examples where the European Arrest Warrant, and other associated aspects of police co-operation, is used to keep children safe,” they wrote.
“If we were to continue to have visa-free travel between Britain and the EU, yet not have the police and security co-operation underpinning this, the system would have serious and immediate weaknesses that undermine the protection of children.
“We need to ensure that strong child protection protocols, including information-sharing, are in place as soon as we lose EU co-operation.”
The commissioners asked the government to explain the status of the UK in these matters and to lay-out the no deal contingency plan for protocols for trafficking, abuse images and abduction.
Family law was another area of concern. “There are, and will continue to be, numerous EU national children in contact with children’s services across the UK, and children, including UK national children, who have a parent living elsewhere in the EU.
“Ongoing co-operation between jurisdictions, including mutual recognition of civil child protection cases is vital for the immediate safety of the children concerned,” they said.
Criminal records and vetting was the final area of concern the commissioners raised, citing the large number of EU nationals working in childcare positions across the UK.
The commissioners asked: “Can you please explain the immediate contingency planning for co-operating on staff vetting in the case of no deal, and the long-term plans for collaboration on the issuing of DBS checks if the withdrawal agreement is ratified?
“We would be grateful if you could also provide assurances that consideration has been given to how these arrangements will apply to people travelling across the Irish Border.”
The Department for Exiting the EU has been approached by HuffPost UK for a comment.
Islamic State schoolgirl Shamima Begum’s citizenship is to be revoked by the Home Office, her family’s lawyer has said.
Ministers will seek an order “depriving” the 19-year-old Londoner of her British citizenship, solicitor Tasnime Akunjee said.
Reports suggest British officials have been able to strip the teenager of her citizenship because she is a dual British-Bangladeshi national.
In a statement posted on Twitter, he said: “Family are very disappointed with the Home Office’s intention to have an order made depriving Shamima of her citizenship.
“We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”
The document, addressed to Begum’s mother, said the decision was taken “in light of the circumstances of your daughter”.
“I would be very grateful if you could ensure the Home Secretary’s decision is brought to her attention, along with her right to appeal,” it added.
The east London schoolgirl who left Britain as a 15-year-old was tracked down to a refugee camp in northern Syria last weekend by The Times.
Subsequently she has been interviewed on Sky News and the BBC, with her comments being broadcasted and subject to intense debate around the world.
International law forbids nations from making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship, but it is possible Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, held dual citizenship.
Government guidance from 2017 states that the Home Secretary has the power to order the deprivation if it would be “conducive to the public good”, as long as they are not left without any citizenship.
A Home Office spokesman said he could not discuss individual cases, but added: “We don’t leave people stateless.”
Begum and two of her school friends, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, originally made the headlines when they fled Bethnal Green, London to travel to Syria to join IS in February 2015.
The teenager’s family have begged the government to intervene, saying that while they expect her to face consequences, she had been through a lot of trauma in the last four years, adding that her new born baby was “entirely blameless”.
The government, however, has so far been unclear in its response to the debate. Ben Wallace the security minister ruled out launching a rescue mission to Syria, saying he would not put British lives at risk to “go and look for terrorists or former terrorists”, adding that “actions have consequences”.
But culture secretary Jeremy Wright told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK, saying that Britain was “obliged” to take back its citizens.
“I think it’s clear that if you’re dealing with a British citizen who wants to return to this country – and they’re not a dual citizen, so their only citizenship is British citizenship – then we are obliged at some stage at least to take them back.
“That doesn’t mean that we can’t put in place the necessary security measures to monitor their activities and make sure that they are not misbehaving.”
On Monday her family’s lawyer said he anticipated she would face criminal proceedings upon any return to the UK, but that it was the family’s hope she would be given professional help following her experience in Syria.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick then confirmed the 19-year-old could expect to be “spoken to” and that counter-terrorism police officers are poised to “deal whatever they are confronted with” if she comes back to Britain.
One of the three, Sultana was reportedly killed in Raqqa when a suspected Russian air strike obliterated her house. The fate of Abase, and another schoolgirl who left Britain in 2014, is not known but they may still be alive.
Begum, who married an IS fighter soon after arrival, had two children who both died in recent months said to be because of illness and malnutrition. Her third child was born in the refugee camp over the weekend.
One of Westminster’s most dramatic days since the Brexit referendum began in silence. One-by-one, seven Labour MPs looked across a table at one another and pressed send on emails destined to make history.
Their bombshell “statement of independence” informed Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s most left-wing leader since the 1980s, they were resigning to sit as The Independent Group (TIG).
“There were no doubters,” Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree, told HuffPost UK at the end of a day that is likely to reverberate for months.
Berger added it was the alleged refusal of her former party to deal with anti-Semitism that drove her to leave.
“It would have been much easier for me to put my head in the sand and my fingers in my ears but this is about every organ of the party, from the NEC, the general secretary to Jeremy himself and the shadow cabinet. There doesn’t seem to be any desire to contend with the issue of anti-Semitism, and I couldn’t see that changing,” she said.
Moments later, she, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker filed into the next room, overlooking a choppy River Thames and Westminster Bridge, to explain their joint decision to a crowd of journalists.
Berger said her party had become “institutionally anti-Semitic”, while others cited deep frustration with Corbyn’s Brexit policy as the driver of the ‘gang of seven’ and its shock move.
“Politics is broken, it doesn’t have to be this way, let’s change it,” Umunna told the press conference.
“If you are sick and tired of politics as usual, guess what? So are we,” added the Streatham MP, whose name has long been associated with whispers of a breakaway.
Whether the new parliamentary caucus triggers an En Marche-style centrist party, which swept Emmanuel Macron to power in France, remains to be seen. But as the news sunk in for the rank and file, statements declaring sadness and heartache quickly descended into briefing and counter-briefing.
Questions immediately began to swirl over how TIG will be funded as a new website and accompanying crowdfunder page crashed due to a rush of interest. Key figures refused to name any large donor. “If you want to build something new, if you feel as politically homeless as us, this is the moment to build it,” said Shuker when pressed.
While facing instant criticism from Corbyn loyalists, TIG’s first major error was entirely self-inflicted. Smith became embroiled in a racism row barely two hours after the new group was formed when she described BAME voters as having a “funny tinge” in a BBC interview. She later apologised.
And in a sign of the full-on warfare set to grip the party, Ealing Labour MP Rupa Huq, in a statement sent from Corbyn’s office, said the group should immediately investigate the “appalling, racist comment”.
As the day wore on, the true ramifications of the Labour split started to emerge.
Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader and a key figure on the moderate wing, urged left-wingers to shelve their anger and instead reach out. He demanded Corbyn make good on his tagline pledge to create a “kinder, gentler politics” and embark on a shadow cabinet reshuffle.
“The tragedy of the hard left is that they can be too easily tempted into the language of heresy and treachery,” he said, before making clear he does not regard those who quit as “traitors”.
As anger over anti-Semitism reverberated around the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) over Berger’s exit, Watson attempted to curb further losses, adding: “They say anti-Semitism is a light sleeper. This is certainly a wake up call for the Labour Party.”
Other MPs would be “asking themselves how they can stay”, he admitted, before appealing for Labour to return to its “social democratic” and “mainstream” traditions.
“I love this party. But sometimes I no longer recognise it,” he said.
While some remained hopeful Berger would return, it was clear there was no route back for some of the other breakers.
In one stunning moment, Leslie, asked by Sky News’ Kay Burley on whether he saw Labour as “rotten to the core”, replied simply: “Yes I do.”
Party chair Ian Lavery, who once said Labour was “too broad a church”, later addressed the weekly meeting of the PLP, making an emotional plea for MPs to remember the party’s key achievements, such as the NHS and Sure Start children’s centres.
But anger over the party’s apparent failure to tackle anti-Semitism became the flash point. “That was a meeting of two halves,” one shadow minister said as he left. One MP described it as “a dialogue of the deaf” while another walked out in disgust, muttering “absolute rubbish”.
Walthamstow’s Stella Creasy could be heard telling the meeting there could be “no more” of what she called “constructive dismissals” of MPs such as Berger over anti-Semitism.
Speaking after the tumultuous meeting, Dudley North MP Ian Austin said others were considering whether to join TIG. “If that is the best the leadership can do then people will be thinking long and hard about their position in the Labour Party,” he said, citing anti-Semitism as the main cause for the breakaway.
Jewish Labour MPs Ruth Smeeth and Louise Ellman were said to have raised the case of a member who allegedly said the pair “did not have human blood”. “(Smeeth) raised it months and months ago and the person is still a member of the party and has not yet been suspended,” said Austin.
He called shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s demand that Berger should have pledged loyalty to the Labour Party to escape a local motion of no-confidence as “like something out of Stalinist Russia”. “I think constructive dismissal is a pretty good way of summing this up,” he added.
McDonnell was seen entering the meeting, as was the party’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, another Corbyn loyalist, but did not speak, despite the enormity of the day’s events, Austin said. Corbyn was not at the meeting and was said to have been at a funeral.
The growing influence of the Unite union and Len McCluskey was one reason behind the breakaway, HuffPost UK understands. Its relationship with Labour has become “dysfunctional”, one TIG source said.
The Unite boss recently signalled remaining in the EU should be off the table and that a second referendum threatened democracy. Labour Leave organiser Brendan Chilton, who has been lobbying Labour MPs to push through Brexit, told HuffPost UK he “absolutely” regarded McCluskey as an ally, adding: “He has made some very powerful interventions.”
One of the most vicious responses to the septet’s move was also from the Unite boss himself. He told the BBC there was a “strong whiff of hypocrisy” about the resignations and that the “splitters” had “no stomach for a fight” on Labour’s radical new policy agenda. “History will judge them,” he said.
Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union, tried to strike a different tone and encourage wavering MPs to stay. “I gritted my teeth through the Blair era, when I disagreed with the Labour government on a host of issues. But I stayed in the party because Labour in power is always better than the alternative,” he said.
Meanwhile, as Labour backbenchers demand the leadership see through pledges to campaign for a second referendum, shadow cabinet members tried to stem further resignations, cautioning it would not force Corbyn to switch policy.
On Facebook, Emily Thornberry, viewed as a successor to Corbyn, conceded the exits could damage Labour’s electoral prospects in Conservative marginals, adding they could “make a Tory Brexit more likely, not less”.
She also appealed for calm, telling members: “If you criticise or abuse these individuals, if you impugn their motives, and if you encourage any others to join them, you are helping them not hurting them, because you are taking your eyes off the prize and allowing our movement to be distracted and divided, which is exactly what they want.”
Burgon was more hardline, calling the move a “direct attack on the Labour Party”. “They also risk doing more damage to the call for a second referendum than to the Labour Party, which is why so many have been so quick to distance themselves from Chuka’s coalition today,” he said.
But will the grouping be joined by Tory Remainers rather than more MPs from the Labour side (Berger admitted she had received messages of support “from all sides of the house”)? Pro-Remain Tories, such as Sarah Wollaston and Nick Boles, may be tempted to join TIG against a backdrop of tensions with the hardline Brexiteer group, the ERG. However, party chairman Brandon Lewis released a short statement taking aim at Corbyn.
Fuelling more speculation over the formation of a party of many stripes, former chancellor turned Evening Standard editor George Osborne, a critic of May’s pro-Brexit direction, raised eyebrows when he later tweeted it “could be the start of something very big in British politics”.
Smith, meanwhile, rejected comparisons with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) breakaway in 1981. “I just don’t think the comparison with the SDP stands up to scrutiny,” said claimed. “This is a different century and the challenges that the country faces are on a scale that I don’t think we have seen at any other time in the post-war period.”
Umunna ruled out the splinter group joining another political party. He said: “There are going to be no mergers - we are not going to join the Lib Dems, let’s be absolutely clear about that. If there are other MPs who share our values we’re offering, then join our movement.”
To cap a tumultuous day, the rift between Labour’s moderates and left-wingers threatened to get deeper still as reports emerged that Derek Hatton - a ringleader of the notorious Trotskyist Militant group, banned from the party by Neil Kinnock in the 1980s - had rejoined the party.
Hatton, whose case Labour would not comment on, said the breakaway MPs were “very, very selfish, very, very hypocritical”. And, in comments likely to provoke fury from some, he told Buzzfeed: “As far as I’m concerned now they should all resign and call by-elections.”