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  1. ITV Report

Corbyn urges Labour members to unite around his policies as he expresses regret over seven rebel resignations

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Dan Hewitt

Jeremy Corbyn has urged members of Labour to unite around his policies, as he expressed regret over the decision made by seven MPs to leave his party and thanked them for their work.

The Labour leader strongly defended his policies calling for social justice and a more equal society, but acknowledged that he needed to take his party with him if they were to succeed at the polls.

His comments came after one of the breakaway group, Chuka Umunna, signalled a new centre party could be formally created by the end of the year.

Mr Corbyn has been warned he faces more resignations by Labour MPs unless he gets a grip on the problem of anti-Semitism within the party's ranks.

Speaking at a conference of manufacturers in London, Mr Corbyn said he was "disappointed" the seven had decided to leave the party in protest at his leadership.

Luciana Berger, (left) and Chuka Umunna are the most prominent MPs to have left the party. Credit: PA

"I hope they recognise that they were elected to Parliament on a manifesto that was based around investment in the future, was based around a more equal and fairer society and based around social justice," he said.

"They were elected to carry out those policies, they decided to go somewhere else and I regret that because I want our party to be strong, I want our party to be united around the policies that we have put forward."

Mr Corbyn sidestepped questions about a call from deputy leader Tom Watson for a shadow cabinet reshuffle to better reflect the breadth of opinion in the party.

Deputy leader Tom Watson claimed a cabinet reshuffle was in order to properly reflect breadth of opinion in the party. Credit: PA

He insisted, however, that he was open to discussion about the party's policies and that he recognised the need to take people with him.

"Anyone who thinks they are not being consulted are not taking up, in my view, the opportunities that are available there and open and ready for them at all times to do that," he said.

"I recognise that leading the party means you have got to take people with you and I am determined to do that - determined to do that so that we can, when an election comes, present those policies and that determination to the public as a whole."

Meanwhile, a Labour MP was forced to apologise after suggesting that seven former colleagues who broke away from Jeremy Corbyn's party may have had Israeli backing.

High Peak MP Ruth George "unreservedly and wholeheartedly" apologised and said she had no intention of "invoking a conspiracy theory".

MP Ruth George has been forced to apologise over her comments. Credit: ruthforhighpeak.co.uk

The seven - including Jewish MP Luciana Berger - blamed Labour's failure to tackle anti-Semitism as one of their reasons for leaving.

Ms George acknowledged her comment had been "ill-thought out" and "poorly worded".

A Labour Party spokesman said: "It's right that Ruth George has apologised for these offensive remarks.

"The Whips Office is reminding Ruth George of the conduct expected of her."

Ms George's earlier Facebook comment, which was highlighted by her local Tory rivals, suggested that "support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour 'Friends of Israel' of which Luciana was chair is possible and I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group's financial backers are not being revealed".

"It's important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy."

MPs (left to right) Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger and Gavin Shuker have all left Labour. Credit: PA

Earlier, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the "only disagreement" within the party was over the issue of Brexit, adding: "I think we are bringing people together on that."

His comments came despite a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday in which the leadership was repeatedly criticised for failing to deal with the issue of anti-Semitism within the party.

Mr McDonnell did acknowledge, however, that the leadership needed to listen to critics within the party.

Her told Sky news: "We need a mammoth, massive listening exercise and (to) address some of those criticisms that have been made."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell is Jeremy Corbyn's closest ally. Credit: PA

He played down suggestions that as many as 36 Labour MPs had been considering a split.

"I don't think there is that scale, but the key issue for us ... (is) we need to keep listening, bring people in, talk to them," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Umunna indicated that he would like the breakaway group to evolve into an up-and-running centre party at the earliest opportunity.

"I would like to see us move as quickly as possible and certainly by the end of the year, but that's my personal view," he told ITV's Good Morning Britain.

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"There needs to be an alternative, so that's perfectly possible. But I don't get to determine this."

Senior Labour MP Mary Creagh said she had been approached to join the breakaway, but had declined.

Ms Creagh told the BBC: "I think what's important is that we now take a long hard look at ourselves as a political party.

"It's clear that Brexit is pushing both parties to the brink. It's clear that anti-Semitism has taken root in our party."