Jeremy Corbyn under more pressure as Frank Field resigns Labour whip following 'party's toleration of anti-Semitism'

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faces growing pressure as Frank Field resigns from the Labour whip citing his "party's toleration of anti-Semitism".

The issue has been a thorn in the side of Mr Corbyn's leadership of the party - from a row involving Ken Livingstone to confusion over his involvement in a wreath laying ceremony in 2014.

He will continue to serve his constituency of Birkenhead as an independent MP.

In a statement, Mr Field mounts a scathing attack on Mr Corbyn, saying "Labour's leadership is becoming a force for anti-Semitism in British politics."

"The latest example, from last week, comes after a series of attempts by Jeremy to deny the past statements and actions by him were antisemitic.

"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.

"The leadership is doing nothing substantive to address this erosion of our core values.

"It saddens me to say that we are increasingly seen as a racist party. This issue alone compels me to resign the whip."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of presiding over an environment where anti-Semitism can breed. Credit: PA

"The current excuses for the Party’s toleration of anti-Semitism must cease and the Party needs to regain its position as being the leading force against racism in this country.

“The Party must recognise the culture of nastiness, bullying, and intimidation that it has allowed to grow unchecked and expel local members whose public conduct is simply disgraceful.

"The Party needs to send out a clear signal against nastiness, bullying, and intimidation at every level by taking effective action.”

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has described the decision of party veteran Frank Field to resign as a "serious loss".

"I deeply regret Frank's decision. It reflects both the 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."

Earlier this month, Tom Watson urged his party to tackle anti-Semitism or risk 'disappearing into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment'. Credit: PA

Labour MP Lucy Powell tweeted the party "must do more" to tackle anti-Semitism.

"I spent much of today speaking to local party members who had been in touch to say they were resigning. Some had been subject to anti-Semitism from other members.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen tweeted: "Frank Field MP resigns from the Labour Party, he is one of the MPs most worthy of the title 'honourable' that I have ever known."

"Massive blow to Labour. Well respected in Parliament and by the public", former Conservative chairman Lord Pickles tweeted.

Chair of Birkenhead Labour Party, George Davies, has called it a "sad day".

Frank Field was appointed as Minister for Welfare Reform in Blair's Labour government in 1997. Credit: PA
  • Who is Frank Field?

Mr Field is a veteran MP who has represented Birkenhead for almost 40 years.

He has faced criticism from party members for his voting record on key Brexit legislation.

Earlier this year he was one of four Labour MPs who voted with the Government to prevent Britain joining a post-EU customs union, on the grounds that working-class voters "gave politicians a clear instruction to take the country out of the EU".

Mr Field has led the charge in some of the most high-profile crusades against British businessmen in recent times.

As chair of the pensions select committee, the veteran MP's most notable campaign was fought against retail tycoon Sir Philip Green over the collapse of BHS.

When it collapsed leaving in its wake 11,000 job losses and a £571 million pension black hole, an enraged Mr Field immediately set about pursuing Sir Philip with the aim of clawing back cash for pensioners.

After hauling the billionaire to parliament and subjecting him to an hours-long roasting, and after a very public war of words, Sir Philip agreed to pay £363 million towards the pension deficit.

Sir Philip Green was grilled by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Work and Pensions Committee in June 2016. Credit: PA

More recently, Mr Field has focused on the collapse of Carillion.

Their liquidation in January left a £900 million debt pile and hundreds of millions of pounds in unfinished public contracts, as well a £800 million pension deficit.

Mr Field has argued that Carillion's pensioners, suppliers and employees have borne the brunt of its failure, while former directors and the firm's auditors have raked in millions.

In characteristic tone, he savaged Britain's big four accountancy firms - KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and EY - accusing them of “feasting on the carcass” of Carillion and collecting more than £70 million in the process.