A veteran British lawmaker quit the Labour Party grouping in Parliament Thursday, saying the opposition party had become a “force for anti-Semitism.”
Frank Field quit with a letter to the party’s chief whip accusing the leadership of the left-of-center party of overseeing an “erosion of our core values.”
“Britain fought the Second World War to banish these views from our politics, but that superhuman effort and success is now under huge and sustained internal attack,” he wrote.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been under mounting attack for his own allegedly anti-Semitic positions and for failing to root anti-Semitism out of Labour, Britain’s main opposition party. Earlier this week, Britain’s former chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, called Corbyn a dangerous anti-Semite. Labour dismissed this claim as absurd and offensive.
The latest firestorm to engulf the party followed the revelation last week of comments made by Corbyn in a 2013 speech at the Palestinian Return Centre in London, where he said of a group of British “Zionists”: “They clearly have two problems. One is they don’t want to study history and, secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.”
Allegations of anti-Jewish prejudice within Labour have grown since Corbyn was elected leader in 2015. Some in the party allege that Corbyn, a longtime critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, has allowed anti-Semitic abuse to go unchecked.
The issue has split the party, with some Corbyn supporters accusing opponents and right-wing media outlets of misrepresenting the leader’s views.
Field also complained of “bullying and intimidation” in his local branch of the party.
Field, 76, has sat in Parliament since 1979 and served as a minister in then-prime minister Tony Blair’s government, but has found himself at odds with Corbyn and his left-wing supporters. His support for Brexit has also put him at odds with many Labour colleagues.
Field said he plans to remain in Parliament as an independent and run again in the next election.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said Field’s resignation “reflects both deep divisions in the party and the sense of drift engulfing us. It is a major wake up call. We cannot afford to lose people of such weight and stature.”
One Labour source dismissed the resignation’s significance, telling The Guardian newspaper that “Frank has been looking for an excuse to resign for some time” and cited a grievance in his local party as the cause.