Seven MPs quit UK Labour Party over Brexit, anti-Semitism

MPs Ann Coffey, center left, and Chuka Umunna arrive to speak at a press conference in London where they and colleagues announced their resignation from the Labour Party. (AFP)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Seven MPs quit UK Labour Party over Brexit, anti-Semitism

  • Many Labour voters, particularly in northern England, chose to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum
  • But a majority of Labour MPs and members supported staying in

LONDON: A group of MPs from Britain’s opposition Labour Party broke away on Monday in protest at leader Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Brexit and his failure to stamp out anti-Semitism.
The seven MPs included Chuka Umunna, who has led a campaign for a second referendum that could stop Brexit and was once seen as a potential leader of the center-left party.
Umunna called for a centrist “alternative” in British politics as the rebel MPs complained about the far-left turn the party had taken under veteran socialist Corbyn.
“The bottom line is this — politics is broken, it doesn’t have to be this way, let’s change it,” Umunna said at a hastily-arranged press conference in London.
The seven MPs will form a breakaway independent group in parliament, undermining Corbyn as he attempts to steer the party through the highly divisive issue of Brexit.
Many Labour voters, particularly in northern England, chose to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum — but a majority of Labour MPs and members supported staying in.
The referendum cut across party political allegiances also in the ruling Conservative Party, which is now deeply divided between pro-EU moderates and Brexit hard-liners.
The Labour rebellion is unlikely to make a major difference in crucial upcoming votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal but the move was welcomed by pro-EU forces.
Vince Cable, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said he was “open to working with like-minded groups and individuals in order to give the people the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU.”
Corbyn said he was “disappointed” by his MPs’ decision.
“Now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all,” he said, pointing to the party’s strong result in the last general election in 2017.
Corbyn has come under fire from europhiles for failing to push for a second referendum. He has instead called on May to negotiate a customs union with the European Union to ease trade ties after Brexit.
Corbyn has also been criticized for months for his handling of cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and his own past associations with Palestinian militants.
Another of the seven MPs, Luciana Berger, a victim of anti-Semitic online abuse for years, said: “This has been a very difficult, painful but necessary decision.”
Berger said the Labour Party had become “institutionally anti-Semitic,” adding: “I have become embarrassed and ashamed to represent the Labour Party.
“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation,” she said.
MP Mike Gapes said one of his main reasons for leaving was because he was “furious that the Labour leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit.”
His colleague Chris Leslie said he too was leaving because of “Labour’s betrayal on Europe.”


Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

Handout photo released by the Mexican presidency showing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador answering questions during a press conference at the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

  • “The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement

MEXICO CITY: The 500-year-old wounds of the Spanish conquest were ripped open afresh on Monday when Mexico’s president urged Spain and the Vatican to apologize for their “abuses” — a request Madrid said it “firmly rejects.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, reopened the debate over Spain’s centuries of dominance in the New World with a video posted to social media, urging Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis to apologize for the conquest and the rights violations committed in its aftermath.
“I have sent a letter to the king of Spain and another to the pope calling for a full account of the abuses and urging them to apologize to the indigenous peoples (of Mexico) for the violations of what we now call their human rights,” Lopez Obrador, 65, said in the video, filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco.
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples,” he said.
“The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”
Spain’s reaction was swift and unequivocal.
“The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement.
“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” it said.
“Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a shared history and extraordinary influence.”

Lopez Obrador took office in December after a landslide election win that represented a firm break with Mexico’s traditional political parties.
A folksy populist, he pulls no punches in going after traditional elites — but had so far cultivated cordial relations with Spain, including during a visit to Mexico City by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez earlier this year.
Lopez Obrador made the remarks during a visit to his native Tabasco state, in southern Mexico.
He was later due to visit the nearby city of Centla. On March 14, 1519, the site was the scene of one of the first battles between Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and the indigenous peoples of the land now known as Mexico.
With the help of horses, swords, guns and smallpox — all unknown in the New World at the time — Cortes led an army of less than 1,000 men to defeat the Aztec empire, the start of 300 years of Spanish rule over Mexico.