Merseyside maverick sings his own song of farewell

Maverick has been a word often used to describe Frank Field through his turbulent near-four-decade-long stint as an MP.

Always seen as something of a political loner, resigning the Labour whip underscores the independent streak that has become his trademark.

That determination to go his own way has drawn both praise and vitriol from colleagues through the years.

The former minister was most recently embroiled in controversy when he, along with three Labour colleagues, sided with the Government in a crunch Brexit vote.

The move saw him accused of betrayal and led to a no-confidence vote in the Birkenhead constituency party that he has represented as an MP since 1979.

Mr Field insisted he was defending working class Brexit voters, but it was hardly the first time he has faced stinging criticism.

Appointed a welfare reform minister with a remit to “think the unthinkable” by Tony Blair in 1997, Mr Field remained in the post for little over a year following policy clashes with the prime minister and then chancellor Gordon Brown.

Indeed, Mr Blair famously stated that instead of thinking the unthinkable, Mr Field had ended up “thinking the unfathomable”.

Though the softly spoken Mr Field is able to give as good he gets, as when he railed against “toe-rags” as part of his ongoing campaign against anti-social behaviour.

Before entering Parliament Mr Field, 76, was a leading figure in the Child Poverty Action Group and Low Pay Unit, and continued his straight talking, and sometimes controversial views on welfare reform after being dropped as a minister.

Mr Field has used his chairmanship of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee to fight a relentless campaign against the way universal credit is being rolled out, and also made the post more high profile with a number of colourful clashes, most notably with former BHS boss Sir Philip Green.

The Margaret Thatcher-admiring Eurosceptic’s views on immigration – Mr Field blamed Blair for beginning an “open door” policy – have also ruffled the feathers of some party colleagues.

And that discord clearly cut two ways as Mr Field used his letter of resignation from the Labour whip to rail against those at the top of the party, who he said had become a “force for antisemitism” and presided over a culture of “intolerance, nastiness and intimidation”.

A quietly religious man who was increasingly out of tune with the Labour leadership’s hymn book, the Merseyside maverick has once again decided to sing his own song.

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