John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, is “worried and saddened” about the prospect of the Labour party splitting.
As allegations of bullying and anti-Semitism persist for the opposition party, its second most senior figure has admitted his fears of the damage those allegations are causing.
In an interview with the New Statesman, Mr McDonnell said he wanted to avoid a split “at all costs” and address the ongoing anti-Semitism scandal “as quickly as possible”.
His comments were made in his first interview since the resignation of the Labour whip by MP Frank Field, who accused the party leadership of becoming “a force for anti-Semitism in British politics”.
It also followed a statement by Emily Benn, the granddaughter of left-wing Labour stalwart Tony Benn, that she was considering leaving Labour following online trolling over her stance on anti-Semitism.
Mr McDonnell said that it would “disappointing” if Labour MPs contemplated splitting away and forming a new party for the sake “individual personal careers”.
Although stating that Labour’s leadership had an “open door”, he acknowledged: “Yes, I think there are people who are willing to leave the party.
“I think I’m saddened by that. I really am saddened and I’m disappointed,” McDonnell told the New Statesman.
Issues including a potential second referendum on Brexit, anti-Semitism and bullying have harried the party for months.
Bullying drove Annette Mckay, a Bury councillor for Labour, away from the party.
Ms McKay said she was attending “a meeting in a small town nearby and I was so intimidated I hid in a shop. I felt terrible. I’ve had counselling, I’ve taken anti-depressants from the doctor – it’s had a serious effect”.
She called on leader Jeremy Corbyn to do more to tackle bullying within the party, saying she felt “forgotten and isolated”.
“We are the party that espouses the values of fairness and equality – we go out there on the streets and we say that to people.
“Well should we not mean that for the people who work for the party, who go out there as councillors, as workers, who should feel valued and cared about?
“I didn’t feel valued and cared about. I felt forgotten and isolated,” said Ms McKay.
Lord Blunkett wrote in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday to call for the Labour Party to abandon “the recent return to bullying and thuggery experienced in the 1980s”.
He wrote that the party needed to “belatedly get its act together [and] demonstrate the leadership qualities which have been lacking”.
In the early 1980s, a centrist group of Labour MPs split from the party to form the Social Democratic Party, which eventually would lead to the creation of the Liberal Democrats.
“If you’re having people like the SDP standing in particular constituencies, it takes votes away from Labour,” Mr McDonnell told the New Statesman.
“And as a result of that where it could be very tight in individual constituencies we could be in a situation where Labour don’t pick up those seats. And what does that mean? It means the Tories getting in.
“So the issue for me is I’d want to avoid at all costs a split if we can. That’s why I’m saying I don’t understand why people are more motivated in that way on any of these issues.
“There’s open democracy within the party. They may well win their arguments on some of these issues, and if it is about individual personal concerns just come and see us because there’s a role for every order.”