Exclusive: Why I left the Labour party

by Mike Gapes

On February 18 I resigned from the Labour Party and joined The Independent Group of Members of Parliament. This was the most difficult decision of my life. I never ever thought I would leave the Party I joined as a 16 year old when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. For over 50 years I was an active member. I held office at all levels, local and national. I spent fifteen years at Labour Party Head Office in Transport House and Walworth Road working in the Organisation, Research and Policy departments. I was a Labour and Co-operative MP for twenty seven years.

I decided early last year that I could not in all conscience stand again as a Labour candidate and support the prospect of a Corbyn led government. But it took me months of agonising to finally make the break. I have been Labour to my core. I have many good Labour friends. I care passionately about Labour values.

I never followed a leader blindly and have had differences with every leader in the past. It is no secret that I had long been unhappy with the direction of the Labour Party under the Corbyn leadership. I did not support Corbyn as leader in 2015. I also made clear that I had no confidence in him in 2016. When the unexpected early election was called in 2017 I sent my activists to help Wes Streeting in neighbouring Ilford North. I bit my tongue and did no media appearances. I based my election campaign on my record as a hard working local constituency MP.

I made no mention of Corbyn or the National Labour Manifesto in my election address which was delivered to every single voter. I pledged to be a strong pro-European voice and to campaign to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market. It was always clear to me that Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be Prime Minister. When I stood for re-election in 2017 I could honestly tell my constituents that there was no prospect of that. The priority was to stop Theresa May getting a landslide for her hard Brexit.

Although Labour lost in 2017 we did much better than I had expected. As a result we now have a hung Parliament where an effective opposition could have had a major impact and where an intelligent astute political leadership could have had a major impact. But the Corbyn Labour leadership do not want to stop Brexit. They whipped Labour MPs to trigger Article 50. They opposed amendments which would have kept the UK in the Single Market and European Economic Area. They delayed and obstructed attempts to implement the agreed policy of the 2018 Labour Party Conference to secure a People’s Vote with the option to Remain in the EU. It was only under threat of further defections to our Independent Group that Corbyn moved this week to pay lip service to the Labour Conference Policy of a Public Vote. But terms and conditions are attached.

I know that it is extremely unlikely that the British people will put into office a party led by a man who regards Hamas and Hizbollah as his friends, who has taken money from the Iranian and Russian State television channels, who has associated with and defended anti Semites and Holocaust deniers, who has a record of opposing NATO, who opposed military action against the Assad regime after its use of chemical weapons, who responded weakly and inadequately to the Russian murder attempts in Salisbury, who has refused to support the democratically elected National Assembly In Venezuela . Jeremy Corbyn and those he has appointed around him would if he ever became Prime Minister in my opinion be a threat to the national security of our country and our international alliances and to the global rules based system our country has established.

I am also sickened that the Labour is now a safe haven for antisemites. The National Executive Committee did eventually, last September, despite the opposition of the Party Leader, agree to the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and all working examples. But there has been considerable reluctance since then to seriously deal with hundreds of cases and several prominent individuals have been readmitted to the Party.

Members of Parliament are not party delegates.  They are the elected representatives of their constituents. I am pleased that my Ilford South constituents have elected me seven times, and that my majority has increased from 402 in 1992 to 31,647 in 2017. I will continue to represent them.

I will continue to be true to myself and my values as a member of The Independent Group.

As our founding Statement says:

Our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to put the best interests of our constituents and our country first. Yet like so many others, we believe that none of today’s political parties are fit to provide the leadership and direction needed by our country.

Our aim is to pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the party’s interests.

As The Independent Group we aim to recognise the value of healthy debate, show tolerance towards different opinions and seek to reach across outdated divides and build consensus to tackle Britain’s problems.

I am looking forward to working with my colleagues and others to do this. I hope that other MPs who share our values will join us as we develop and grow.

Mike Gapes is Independent Member of Parliament for Ilford South.  

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30 Responses to “Exclusive: Why I left the Labour party”

  1. John Reid says:

    I must have met mike while canvassing in Ilford south in 87, didn’t canvass in 1992, but after wedidnt ain Basildin, Mike winning, partially due to demographic changes it was one of the delights in 92
    After Linda Phelam lost Ilford north in 2005′ I worked along side mike in the Mayor election in 2008 when labour got 8000 more votes in the Redbridge Havering area, in 2010 I Drove Emily thornberry and Heidi to talk in Ed miliband s and Andy’s behalf at Husting,when Mike was talking on David Milibands behalf
    At Fabian Co-op meetings, in Rainham Paul Embery/Maurice glasman and grace Blakeley have all come down, to crowds of 70 people promoting Brexit,got Rapturous applause, they then went to talk in Barking, to similar response
    Mike was invited to a Fabian meeting,this time last year Whe labour was trying to win seats off of Ukip in Harold hill, and prevent the BNP regaining seats in Dagenham , Mikes speech , was originally gonna be called, how to stop abrexit, with the Council elections coming up, he was asked to change it too, how to live with Brexit, I can’t think why.

    I quit the Labour Party in November rejoined 10 days ago
    I’ve sat opposite Shaun bailey in McdinLds, nice enough chap, but what we’ve got to do is get sadiq, back next year
    Thanks mike
    To quote Norman tebbit, on Brexit,it’s simple, goodbye, thanks, I hope we can still be friends

  2. Ian says:

    Mike shouldn’t be so defensive about his evolving enlightenment that the system he has been a part of for so long is in truth rotten to the core. He has finally realised that the Labour Party is the principal obstacle to decent non-Conservative government in this country.

    The Conservatives simply love having the Labour Party as their only credible opponent within the two-party stitch-up that is British politics, and they will be praying that Corbyn survives and that TIG and the LibDems crash and burn.

    We should look forward to more speeches from Mike about the urgent need for political reform, comforted by his demonstration that it is never too late in life to admit your mistake.

  3. Anne says:

    I am sorry Mike that you have reached this decision, and am disappointed that some of our good people have been driven to take this step. I feel this weakens Labour – we need a united party – we have an absolutely awful Tory government that has divided our nation.
    The Labour manifesto was a good one and I don’t think this is the problem for those leaving the party.
    Jenny Formby is now moaning that Tom Watson is wanting to oversee the business regarding anti Semitism. It is because Jenny Formby has not got a handle on this problem that intervention is necessary – she has been employed to undertake this job – she should get on with it – if she doesn’t then she should be replaced by someone who can. Tom Watson is deputy leader of our party – he has every right to oversee what progress (if any) is being made.
    Corbyn’s biggest mistakes was not, from the very beginning uniting the party – we should be a broad church. These departures are as a result of this.
    I believe that remaining in the EU is best for our country, and second best would have a customs union and close alignment with the single market, but, sadly, for the moment, these ships have passed. However, one thing I am sure of is that if the Tory party go for a no deal Brexit the country will never forgive them.

  4. E says:

    All I can say is thank you Mike. You and your colleagues in TiG have given hope to those of us who have left the party in recent years and have spent a great deal of time agonising over the lack of options for moderate, pro EU, centre left voters. We now have hope and on the evidence so far your impact on UK politics far outweighs your relatively small numbers. I suspect that as and when TiG transform into a proper political party there will be no shortage of recruits and a good deal of support amongst the wider electorate. I can only hope that over time yet more Labour MPs join you and help to consign Corbyn and his hard left fellow travellers to the dustbin of history .

  5. Greggo says:

    Good riddance Mike ….You can carry on taking your all expenses paid trips to that despot Saudi Arabia.
    Corbyn and McDonnell have saved this party from the abyss it was heading under NL. Hemorrhaging votes and members all throughout the Blair years , not to mention the loss of Scotland, all this was under NL.
    You won’t be missed as this is a democratic socialist party which is an anathema to you. If you’ve got one ounce of decency left , you’d stand down and fight a by-election and let your constituency .

  6. Paul says:

    At long last, some Labour MPs have looked to their conscience. But would they have acted if Mr Corbyn and his followers had not offended a large section of the membership and electorate?

    Mike lists a whole range of reasons why Mr Corbyn is unfit to be PM, but he misses one that is very important or at least to me. Why?

    Jeremy Corbyn gave support to domestic terrorists who killed hundreds of UK citizens. Was that not a good enough reason to mark him as unfit? Was that not good enough to have him thrown out of the party?

    Labour members in Northern Ireland who tried to stand in local elections were threatened with expulsion. Jeremy Corbyn invites the political wing of the IRA to parliament after the Brighton bomb and he gets to be leader.

    This argument boils down to votes, and as long as Labour marginalises Northern Ireland, what we think and what happens doesn’t really matter. Does it?

  7. Edward says:

    A truly brave and honourable action. I wish you all the best.

  8. Alf says:

    I hope you will be happy in Chuka’s new Tory-lite party.

  9. John Reid says:

    Paul well said
    Greggos what if mike wins his seat as independent or worse still a split vote let’s tne Torirs back in

  10. John P Reid says:

    Do you recall Mike called the PM implementing brexit .Theresa the Appeaser, for Errr, respecting democracy
    I note this poll
    That 10% of those who voted brexit have seen the E.U. spend 3 years trying to stop democracy that makes them appeasers but then it makes those who tried to stop democracy as the oppressors

  11. John P Reid says:

    Labour backs people’s vote,labour go even further down the polls

  12. Dylan Jessop says:

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out you Blairite slob

  13. anon says:

    I remember standing outside of Parliament with a lot of other people – we were begging to take part in a supposed democracy and were lobbying our MPs for a vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

    One of the sights I remember well was that of Mr Gapes sidling past with a guilty look on his face; avoiding all contact with those disgusting people with their concern for the imposition of one of the most anti-democratic pieces of political thuggery that I have seen in my lifetime.

    But, our Michael has been one of the more eager porcine beneficiaries of our EU adventure, hasn’t he? Along with a Kinnock-led rabble who sought to take democracy out of the hands of those it belonged to – the UK people – and outsource it to their buddies in Brussels.

    For my part – I once belonged to a Labour Party that I believed cared about things like Democracy; for the last 30 years Labour have lined up alongside the bankers, corporates, and currency speculators of the EU and reduced the UK people to parcels to be labelled and passed around.

    Good riddance, Mr Gapes – I am presently in possession of the smallest violin in the world.

  14. John P reid says:

    Saw a great quote about some trots quitting the party after Chris Williamson has been suspended ,with the Quote dont let the door hit you on the way out Too

  15. Dave Roberts says:

    I think the question of Trots in Labour is the elephant in the room. Nobody is dealing with it.

  16. Landless Peasant says:

    So you’re taking your ball home. Diddums. Good riddance.

  17. John P Reid says:

    Landless peasant I may disagree with gapes a lot, but I can’t doubt he spent years in the mid 80s-1997 making labour electable after the SDP were bullies out and the 83 result nearly destroyed the party.

  18. Mike Homfray says:

    Goodbye and good riddance

  19. Harry says:

    Wow – that’s a really insightful comment there from Landless Peasant, I presume he/she no longer wishes the Labour Party to represent broad swathes of the British Electorate?

  20. John Reid says:

    Remember when people are bullied out the party,taking lots of votes with them causing the Tories to win. and the poor suffer austerity under the Tories, too champagne socialists like Mike homfray it’s a moral victory

  21. Henrik says:

    My word, that didn’t take long, the Momentum folk were obviously in the crew room, all suited up and just waiting for the ‘scramble’ klaxon.

    Best of luck to what’s left of the Labour Party, a tiny, ineffectual, but ideologically pure fraction of a fraction of a fraction, endlessly eating its own young while the rest of us get on with our lives, unfortunately without the benefit of a functioning, patriotic and sensible HM Loyal Opposition. Still, at least we’ll know where to find the Jew-haters should we ever need to.

  22. Mike Homfray says:

    I’m not naive enough to think that centrist government does anything to assist the worst off

  23. Tafia says:

    Harry – I presume he/she no longer wishes the Labour Party to represent broad swathes of the British Electorate?

    Neither doe the Labour Party itself apparently.

  24. anon says:


    I hope that I am not included in your comment.

    I am not a Momentum member – or supporter; neither do I hate Jews.

    It does irk me that you use the word “patriotic” when the term has been derided by the Labour Party of the last 30 years.

    It is interesting that the pro-EU arm of the Labour Party are suddenly speaking of patriotism: where was this patriotism when Labour were handing our industries over to foreign control?
    And what of national democracy – where were our Labour paragons of democracy when treaties were being signed that bundled our people up, slapped labels on our foreheads, and handed us over to the EU?

    I am old enough to remember when the people around me were fighting for their most basic working rights – but this ‘New Labour’ breed are quite at ease accrediting all our rights to a bunch of parasites in Brussels.
    Well-mannered, well turned out, and fragrant our EU ‘representatives’ may be – but they have never split a nail in anger; it was the pure grit, sweat, and blood of the working people of the UK who fought for our rights.

    I am no supporter of Corbyn, but his instincts are correct as far as the EU is concerned.
    And he has managed to resurrect a party on the basis of its people arguing from the bottom up.

    But we are now to be spoken of as patriots – what has happened to the derision of the last 30 years: ‘nationalists’, ‘populists’, ‘nativists’ – funny how the language changes when support starts slipping away.

  25. Dave Roberts says:

    What has happened to the reply facility? It was useful to enter into a debate.

  26. John P Reid says:

    Mike it prevents the Tories getting in, but then you’ve no idea what it was like to suffer under thatcher when you were proud of your university education,and then. Plushy Job

    Well said Tafia

  27. Henrik says:

    @anon, not a pop at you, more at the squadron of elite Corbyn fanboys who deoloyed so quickly to argue with a lifelong Labour Party member’s principled decision to quit a party which no longer represented him, his views, or, indeed, anyone but the hard Left.

    I’m not commenting on the Labour attitude to Brexit, or the leader’s ditto, as it’s utterly irrelevant – to my mind, this thread is all about Labour, as I said, eating its own young and splitting itself further and further down, no doubt in order to form the vanguard party and mobilise the proletariat.

    My main bitch – as articulated around here for some years now – is that, while Labour plays its little internal ideological games, one of the worst governments I can remember for years has no effective or principled Opposition.

    I have no issues whatsoever with the term ‘patriotic and nor, I suspect, do most of hte ordinary decent folk of this country.

  28. anon says:


    Thank you for your reply – I rant on a bit, only because Labour have been taken over – not only by Momentum – but by people who don’t have the core principles that I encountered when I joined in my youth.

    My major regret of the last 20+ years was the death of John Smith: I felt that he was one of the good guys.

  29. Landless Peasant says:

    On the subject of Gapes’ wildly unfounded claim that Labour has become a “safe haven for antisemites” :


  30. John P Reid says:

    Landless Peasant Vox Politics is B@@@@@ks. spectator.co.uk/2019/03/the-campaign-to-boycott-the-extremists-who-peddle-fake-news/

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