Umunna dismisses talk of new political party plan under cover of Brexit vote

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Former Labour shadow minister Chuka Umunna has described claims that the campaign for a second Brexit referendum is cover for the creation of a new centrist political party as “utter bollocks”.

Allegations that the People’s Vote group calling for another poll on Britain’s relationship with the EU was a smokescreen for disaffected MPs to breakaway under his leadership were “false news”, the London MP told the Guardian.

He said that the campaign was a cross-party effort and suggestions that it was a partisan Labour effort was “speculation that aids and abets Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and others”.

It comes after the MP for Streatham was criticised by left-wing figures including Unite supremo Len McCluskey of plotting a breakaway by MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

Mr Umunna told the Guardian: “The idea that the People’s Vote campaign is a precursor to a new party is complete and utter bollocks.

“Frankly, people need to stop spreading false news about this.”

He added: “The People’s Vote campaign contains people from all parties and people of no affiliation at all – that’s the reason it has been successful.

“People need to stop speculation that aids and abets Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and others.”

The People’s Vote campaign is campaigning for a referendum that allows the public to decide on the final Brexit deal ahead of March’s departure from the EU.

Mr Umunna has been critical of his own party’s position, which is against the new vote. Barry Gardiner, the shadow trade secretary, this week warned such a vote could lead to civil disobedience and that the 2016 result had to be respected.

Rumours of a plot by Labour MPs unhappy with the party under Mr Corbyn have circulated during the summer Parliamentary recess as the party faces divisions over Europe and the ongoing row over allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.

Mr McCluskey, the powerful head of the Unite trade union, hit out at Mr Umunna last week, accusing him of using the latter controversy to scheme in favour of a breakaway.

Writing for the Huffington Post, the union leader said: “Given the paucity of evidence that he actually produces to sustain his charge that he is a member of an ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’ party, it is fair to ask whether Umunna is merely exploiting the latest episode to justify his moves to breakaway from Labour, the plotting for which has been widely reported elsewhere.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also warned unnamed figures plotting a breakaway, tweeting: “For anybody to use the issue of antisemitism as a cover for launching a new political party they had been planning for nearly two years would rightly be seen as an act of appalling cynicism, basely exploiting a genuine concern that people of goodwill are working hard to address.”

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