Some of those semi-detached or indeed former Labour MPs have already featured recently on Zelo Street. Frank Field, who was going to precipitate a by-election in Birkenhead before putting out soundings which resulting in him discovering he was not as popular as he thought, is one. John Woodcock, still insisting he will fight Barrow-in-Furness as an independent next time (and then lose) is another.
But new to semi-detached Labour MP watch is Chris Leslie, who represented Shipley in the first two terms of the Blair Government, before decamping to Nottingham East for the 2010 General Election. The voters of Shipley rejected him in favour of Philip Davies, which must have hurt. His own local party has now passed a motion of no confidence in him.
So speculation has been rife for months now that Leslie was one of a (still) small group of disaffected Labour MPs who thought it was fine to tell the left of the party to get into line and suck it up when Tone was PM, but are not at all happy at the idea of at least not sounding off about how rotten it is now that Jeremy Corbyn is party leader.
Indeed, after he published a pamphlet through the Social Market Foundation called “Centre Ground - Six Values of Mainstream Britain”, the Guardian observed that “a group of centrist MPs, including [Chuka] Umunna and fellow Labour MP Chris Leslie, are widely believed to be laying the groundwork for the creation of a new party although both have denied this”. Yet it seems Leslie spoke with forked tongue.
Deputy political editor of the Murdoch Sun Steve Hawkes has this afternoon told that “Chris Leslie takes a step closer towards leaving Labour for the new 'CDU' centrist party that by all accounts is days away from being set up … ‘For me idea that the Labour party is not together and arguing against this disaster is for me entirely heartbreaking’”.
We should not be surprised: at the start of the month, Toby Helm as the Observer warned readers “On Saturday night, three of the MPs widely rumoured to be involved in the plans for an initial breakaway - Angela Smith, Chris Leslie and Luciana Berger - refused to be drawn into talk of a split, and insisted they were focused on opposing Brexit. But they did not deny that moves could be made by the spring or early summer”.
Leslie openly berated his own party leader last month in the Evening Standard, claiming that “Jeremy Corbyn would betray Labour if he prevents a referendum”. He “slammed the 'tactics of the hard left' after losing a no-confidence vote brought by local party members”. A big boy clearly did it and ran away. Now he wants to take his bat home and run away.
Sadly, the new and allegedly centrist party, quite apart from the questionable utility of some of those not-really-big-name-at-all supporters, doesn’t even have a credible looking name. The CDU? What’s that? The only CDU of any prominence is the main centre-right grouping in Germany. Are they too embarrassed to exhume memories of the SDP?
But the response to Chris Leslie can be put directly: he’s been “going” for months now. He should get on and do the deed - and in the process consign himself to political oblivion. Depart, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.
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