Brexit aftermath

Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn expected to fight to keep post

British Labour party chief Jeremy Corbyn leaving his home in North London yesterday. Some Labour lawmakers have criticised their leader for running a lacklustre campaign to remain in the European Union. They fear Mr Corbyn lacks the powers of persuas
British Labour party chief Jeremy Corbyn leaving his home in North London yesterday. Some Labour lawmakers have criticised their leader for running a lacklustre campaign to remain in the European Union. They fear Mr Corbyn lacks the powers of persuasion needed to win a general election.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Move comes after Corbyn rejected calls to resign, but result is non-binding and he is expected to fight on

LONDON • Labour Party lawmakers yesterday by an overwhelming margin passed a vote of no confidence in their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, after he rejected calls to resign, as the aftershocks of the Brexit referendum continue to wreak havoc across Britain's political landscape.

However, the result of the vote is non-binding and Mr Corbyn is expected to fight on.

The vote was 172-40 against Mr Corbyn. There were four spoilt ballots and 13 lawmakers did not turn up to vote.

At a fractious party meeting late on Monday, lawmaker after lawmaker had urged him to quit, with only a few offering words of support. 

More than 40 members of his team, including more than half of the shadow Cabinet, have resigned since Sunday.

OVERWHELMING REJECTION

I couldn't believe the strength of feeling, the overwhelming rejection of Jeremy as our leader. And the pleading with him that he should consider his position and go with dignity. No one individual is greater than the party. I think the referendum was a test of leadership and he failed it.

MS MARGARET HODGE, one of the sponsors of the no-confidence motion - whose result is non-binding, describing the reaction of Labour MPs at a meeting on Monday. She was speaking on BBC Radio yesterday in an interview.

 

Ms Margaret Hodge, one of the sponsors of the no-confidence motion, described the reaction of MPs at the meeting as "unprecedented".

"I couldn't believe the strength of feeling, the overwhelming rejection of Jeremy as our leader," she said yesterday in a BBC Radio interview. "And the pleading with him that he should consider his position and go with dignity. No one individual is greater than the party. I think the referendum was a test of leadership and he failed it."

The backlash follows last Thursday's stunning vote to quit the European Union.

Many of those who resigned have criticised their leader for running a lacklustre campaign to remain in the bloc. They fear Mr Corbyn lacks the powers of persuasion needed to win a general election that could happen sooner than planned after Prime Minister David Cameron resigned in the wake of the referendum result.

"The writing on the wall is 8m high and if he can't see it, he needs to go to Specsavers," Mr Chris Bryant, who resigned from Mr Corbyn's team on Sunday, told reporters, referring to a chain of opticians. "This is a battle for the soul of the Labour Party."

Another lawmaker, Mr Ian Austin, said the party faces "an existential threat" because of Mr Corbyn and that criticisms were delivered by more than just the "usual suspects".

Mr Corbyn refused to quit and, after leaving the meeting on Monday, he headed straight to the square outside the Houses of Parliament to address hundreds of supporters who had gathered there.

"We don't need the blame culture, we need the unite culture of working together," he said to loud cheers from the crowd, who moments earlier had been chanting his name.

The no-confidence vote is only advisory and will not immediately unseat Mr Corbyn, who was elected last year with landslide support among party members outside the legislature. A Labour leadership election can be triggered only if Mr Corbyn quits or if 20 per cent of the party's 229 lawmakers put their names to a letter backing a rival. The scale of the revolt suggests that the anti-Corbyn camp has enough support in Parliament to reach that figure.

But if Mr Corbyn is one of the candidates in any new leadership election, then the party's wider members will have the final word. Last year, almost 60 per cent of them backed Mr Corbyn, a serial rebel who had been at the left-wing fringes of the party for more than three decades. The leader's office said he will stand if a contest is triggered.

Mr Corbyn's troubles have provided some relief for Mr Cameron, who announced his own resignation last Friday after the failure of his Remain campaign.

His successor as Conservative Party chief and prime minister is due to be chosen by early September.

Finance Minister George Osborne, the one-time favourite to succeed Mr Cameron, has ruled himself out of the contest, writing in the Times newspaper that "I am not the person to provide the unity my party needs".

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb formally announced his candidacy yesterday but many see Home Secretary Theresa May and former London mayor Boris Johnson as the strongest contenders for the top office.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Labour MPs vote no confidence in their leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe