A LABOUR councillor in Swindon quit the party moments after seven MPs resigned to form their own independent group.

Matthew Courtliff represents Lydiard and Freshbrook on the borough council and says he will continue to do so as an independent politician. The defecting MPs criticised the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, argued that the party was facilitating Brexit, and accused it of bullying, anti-semitism and racism.

Coun Courtliff shared their concerns. He said: “It is with sincere regret that I must follow my intuition and leave an institution that no longer represents the values and direction which I signed up to.

“A culture of toxicity has engulfed the party, with a divisive nastiness eating away at its core. The lack of action on antisemitism, the us vs them narrative, and the general anti-Western, anti-British sentiment has worn away at my resolve. The party leadership’s betrayal of my generation, and the effect it will have on my children, due to the inaction on Brexit has been the straw that has broken the camel’s back. The war to make Britain a fairer society continues, the battle for the Labour Party to make that happen has been lost.”

It is not the first time Coun Courtliff has left the fold. In October 2016 he defected to the Conservatives due to concerns over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, then returned to the Labour Party less than 24 hours later saying he had made “a terrible mistake”.

He is also a member of the Co-operative Party. The party’s chair Patrick Herring said: “There was no warning about these resignations, it’s come as quite a shock. It’s disappointing that so many of the MPs that stood down were Co-operative Party members.

“This is a broad church and we’ve stayed away from factionalism as much as possible. We’ve had situations before where people left the party to join another, but in those instances the rules were crystal clear. If a Labour member joins the Tories, we kick them out, but Matthew is going to be an independent and he’s signalled that he will still support Labour in the council, so it’s a grey area.

“It’s all up in the air but we will be driven by what position the Co-operative Party takes on a national level.”

Jim Grant, Labour Group leader on Swindon Borough Council, said: “It’s obviously sad that Matthew has made the decision to leave the Labour Party and sit as an independent.

“The Labour group in Swindon is focused on setting out a real and credible alternative to this Conservative administration as we build towards the local elections in May.”