Eighth Labour MP leaves party as Jeremy Corbyn says quitters were elected on his manifesto

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his leadership of the Labour Party, telling eight MPs who quit in protest - as well as any others thinking of joining them - that they were elected to deliver the party manifesto.

The Labour leader expressed “regret” over the resignations and acknowledged he needs to take his party with him in order to win an election, but said: “They were elected to carry out those policies”.

Joan Ryan became the eighth MP to leave the Labour party last night, announcing that she was joining the Independent Group in response to how Luciana Berger was treated.

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Ms Ryan is currently chair of the Labour Friends of Israel campaign group.

Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Corbyn comments came after shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said Labour needs to undertake a “mammoth listening exercise” to heal its divisions.

Mr McDonnell said the party leadership needed to listen to its critics, arguing that it was better to “bring people in [and] talk to them”.

But the Shadow Chancellor also tried to play down the risk of further resignations, claiming the “only disagreement” within the party was over the issue of Brexit.

Reports suggest as many as 36 Labour MPs were involved in early discussions about the breakaway. Mary Creagh said she had been approached, but declined to take part.

Joan Ryan

“What’s important is that we now take a long hard look at ourselves as a political party,” she said. “It’s clear that Brexit is pushing both parties to the brink. It’s clear that anti-Semitism has taken root in our party.”

A Labour MP apologised “unreservedly and wholeheartedly” yesterday after suggesting that former colleagues who broke away may have had Israeli backing. Ruth George, the MP for High Peak, said she had no intention of “invoking a conspiracy theory”.

The seven who resigned yesterday- including Jewish MP Luciana Berger - blamed Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism as one of their reasons for leaving.

Chuka Umunna, another of the MPs who quit, said he would like the breakaway ‘Independent Group’ to evolve into a full political party “as quickly as possible and certainly by the end of the year”.

The MPs who quit were branded “pathetic” by Derek Hatton, the firebrand former deputy leader of Liverpool City Council who has been readmitted to the party 34 years after his expulsion for involvement in Militant Tendency.

“For 34 years I’ve stayed absolutely solid with the Labour Party,” Mr Hatton said. “That’s why when you look at the seven who now have left you think, well, how pathetic is it, how really strong are you within the Labour movement to want to run away when there is something that you disagree with?”

Pro-Europe Tory MP Antoinette Sandbach said she will not be joining the Independent Group, but warned of infiltration by Ukip activists seeking to force out Conservative moderates.