Tom Watson urges Labour moderates not to split
Tom Watson says it would be "a very sad and disappointing day" if MPs angry at Labour's direction under Jeremy Corbyn split to form a breakaway party.
The West Bromwich East MP and Labour deputy leader was addressing mounting speculation that at least half a dozen MPs were ready to announce a new centre-left party.
According to reports they are said to involve Luciana Berger, whose own CLP branch recently subjected her to a no confidence motion over claims she had been disloyal to Mr Corbyn.
Mr Watson said: “As a member of the Labour party for 35 years, I genuinely want people to stay in the party, to hold together, to fight for an electorally-viable party... one that has a programme that addresses the issues of concern for the future.
“Beyond Brexit, we’ve got nine million jobs threatened by artificial intelligence. So what I’ve said – and I said it at the conference as well – I hope they can stay and fight their corner.
“And it would be a very sad and disappointing day if there is a breakaway.”
Labour's perceived lurch towards the hard left under Mr Corbyn has led to growing discontent among many of the party's more moderate MPs.
A number of them, including Ms Berger, have been the victims of abuse by Labour activists after criticising Mr Corbyn’s handling of his party’s ongoing anti-Semitism crisis.
Dudley North MP Ian Austin is another to have come in for criticism after he was investigated by the party last year over allegations of abusive conduct.
He has hit out at "the bullies running the Labour party", claiming the cases mounted against him and Margaret Hodge MP were "ludicrous".
A meeting to form a new party was reportedly held at the offices of author JK Rowling's agent, Neil Blair.
Labour last split in 1981, when "the gang of four" formed the SDP in objection to the party's left-wing lurch under Michael Foot.