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EXCLUSIVE: Paul Sweeney says defectors were part of a ‘necessary cleansing’

by Conrad Landin Scotland Editor

SPLITTER MPs who defected to the Independent Group were part of a “necessary cleansing” of the Labour Party, Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney said.

The Scottish Labour MP said former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie and ex-shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who have formed a separate Commons grouping with former Tories including Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen, were “self-centred careerists.”

Speaking in Glasgow on Friday night to mark the relaunch of Tribune magazine, Mr Sweeney expressed regret over the defection of Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, who he said had faced unacceptable “bullying.”

But he told the launch attendees that he did not regret the departure of Labour rightwinger Mr Leslie.

“Personally, I’ve always found him aloof and arrogant,” he said. “The venom and the vitriol with which he addressed our front bench was a disgrace.”

And Mr Sweeney said his attitude to Mr Leslie applied to “Chuka Umunna too, Mikes Gapes and the ‘funny tinge’ lady” — a reference to defector Angela Smith whose comment regarding BAME people on the day of the Independent Group launch has been deemed racist.

“There’s a necessary cleansing that has to happen in the margins,” Mr Sweeney added.

None of Scotland’s seven Labour MPs joined the group — though when it was launched, Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray accused the party leadership of “trolling MPs, they’re pushing them out the door, taking us to the brink and asking us to jump.”

Asked if he was considering defecting, Mr Murray told ITV News: “There is going to be a lot of MPs pushed to the brink and then we are going to have to make our decisions about the best way forward in the national interest.”

Another rightwinger, former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, ruled out a similar split in the Labour group of MSPs at Holyrood.

But she said the party should respond to the defections with an “understanding tone.”

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