Feb 19, 2019 09:57 Asia/Tehran

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has told party leader Jeremy Corbyn that he must change direction or face a worsening Labour split after seven MPs quit Labour to form a new political party or movement.

Iran Press/Europe: The resignation of seven Labour MPs represents the party’s biggest schism in nearly 40 years.

Watson’s emotional intervention came as a number of Labour MPs were poised to follow the founders of the new Independent Group, and after reports on Monday night that some Conservatives were also ready to defect, The Guardian reported.

Saying that he sometimes no longer recognizes his own party, Watson urged Corbyn to ensure Labour remains a broad church and reshuffle his shadow cabinet to reflect a wider balance of MPs.

The announcement of the group founded by Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna represented the most significant challenge to party unity since the 'gang of four' senior figures quit to form the Social Democratic party in 1981.

Umunna directly appealed to MPs from other parties to join the new movement, with attention focused on whether Conservative MPs Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston, Nick Boles, Heidi Allen, and at least one pro-EU minister could jump ship if Theresa May heads towards a no-deal Brexit.

Labour MPs also told The Guardian they believe there will be another wave of defections if their party leadership does not move towards a second referendum on Brexit and commit to taking more steps to root out antisemitism from the party.

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Corbyn, who has repeatedly faced down leadership challenges, showed little sign of panic. He released a statement saying he was disappointed with their departures but highlighted the popularity of Labour’s recent policies and gains at the 2017 election.

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