26 Jun 2016

Corbyn hit by Labour resignations after Brexit vote

Jeremy Corbyn is hit by mass resignations from his top team as his position as Labour leader is challenged by some of his MPs, with Hilary Benn calling on him to resign.

Following the referendum vote to leave the EU, some of Mr Corbyn’s colleagues have accused him of mounting a lacklustre campaign to stay in and want him replaced as leader.

He sacked Mr Benn after he had raised concerns about his leadership, with Heidi Alexander following the shadow foreign secretary out of the door after resigning her health portfolio and Gloria de Piero standing down as spokesperson on young people.

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, Labour’s only MP in Scotland, was next to go, along with Lucy Powell (education), Vernon Coaker (Northern Ireland), Kerry McCarthy (environment), Lilian Greenwood (transport), Seema Malhotra (Treasury), and Lord Falconer (justice).

More resignations could follow, but shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme that Mr Corbyn was “not going anywhere”.

‘A change of leadership is essential’

In a letter to Mr Corbyn, Ms Alexander said: “As much as I respect you as a man of principle, I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding and I believe that if we are to form the next government, a change of leadership is essential.”

Mr Benn said there was “widespread” worry among Labour MPs and in the shadow cabinet over Mr Corbyn’s ability to win a snap election after David Cameron’s announcement that he is resigning as Conservative leader.

He said: “At this critical time for our country, following the result of the EU referendum, we need strong and effective leadership of the Labour Party that is capable of winning public support so that we can stand up for the people of Britain.

“In a phone call to Jeremy, I told him that for these reasons I had lost confidence in his ability to lead the party and he then dismissed me from the shadow cabinet.”

The sacking follows claims in the Observer that Mr Benn called Labour MPs over the weekend to discuss a coup against Mr Corbyn.

‘Hang together’

Mr McDonnell said if Mr Corbyn was forced to stand for the leadership again, he would chair his campaign, warning would-be rebels: “Listen to your party members who voted for Jeremy in overwhelming numbers nine months ago. Hang together. That principle of Labour solidarity is key at this point in time.”

Mr Corbyn has made it clear he will fight any move against him by MPs and rely on the backing of members if it comes to a leadership challenge.

Both main UK parties are grappling with the fallout from Thursday’s referendum result, with pro-Remain Tories seeking a leadership candidate strong enough to try to stop Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, from becoming prime minister.

Labour MP Ann Coffey called on Mr Corbyn to resign, saying the public had “no confidence” in him. She is seconding a motion of no confidence proposed by Labour veteran Margaret Hodge, who warned that the party was facing “political oblivion” under his leadership.

The motion is expected to be considered by MPs at the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday, with a vote by secret ballot the following day.