Former Labour party MPs, (From Left) Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, and Gavin Shuker pose for a photograph following a press conference in London on February 18, 2019, where they announced their resignation from the Labour Party, and the formation of a new independent group of MPs. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

ILFORD South MP Mike Gapes will be “deeply missed” following his resignation from the Labour party on Monday (18), Jas Athwal, Redbridge’s Labour group leader, said.

“I’m saddened to see that several of our MPs have found it necessary to leave the Labour party,” Athwal said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“I am especially sorry to see our local Ilford South MP Mike Gapes step down from Labour as he has been a committed local MP for many years and will be deeply missed in the party.”

Athwal said despite any “perceived political or ideological differences” the Labour party is fundamentally a family.

He added: “I am a collectivist at heart and I believe these divisions make us weaker, not stronger so I will continue to work closely with my Labour colleagues locally and nationally to proceed through this difficulty together.”

Gapes and six others announced their decision to leave the party on Monday morning and said they would form a rival “Independent Group.”

MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey left the party in protest against its leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to issues such as Brexit and anti-Semitism.

Labour Party MP Virendra Sharma said he sympathised with his colleagues who took the decision to quit, but called for unity within the party.

“I understand the frustrations of those who quit today,” he wrote on Twitter. “I too want to see clearer Labour support for the EU and a #PeoplesVote, but I believe that Labour should remain united and splitting in this way undermines our chances of securing close ties to the EU and the best gov for UK.”

Luton South MP Shuker said his decision to leave the party was rooted in his “commitment to the constituents of Luton South and to making decisions in their best interests.”

“Today, the Labour party is riddled with anti-Semitism, it presents a threat to our national security and it’s perfectly content to enable the hard Tory Brexit that will directly and negatively affect people in Luton,” he said.