Sunday, June 26, 2016

Labor in Crisis: Shadow Ministers Resign in Protests Against Corbyn
Overnight resignation of shadow foreign secretary followed by exits of Gloria de Piero and Heidi Alexander, with more expected

Anushka Asthana and Rajeev Syal
Sunday 26 June 2016 06.14 EDT

Gloria de Piero has become the latest high-profile MP to resign from Jeremy Corbyn’s cabinet, with more than half of the team expected to stand down on Sunday in a coup against Jeremy Corbyn, triggered by the result of the EU referendum and the leader’s decision to sack Hilary Benn.

Several members of shadow cabinet told the Guardian they were writing their resignation letters after Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary, stepped down on Sunday morning.

De Piero, who speaks out for young people, has become the next high-profile member to step down. She told Corbyn in a resignation letter: “I have always enjoyed a warm personal relationship with you and I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve in your shadow cabinet. I accepted that invitation because I thought it was right to support you in your attempt to achieve the Labour victory the country so badly needs.

“I do not believe you can deliver that victory at a general election, which may take place in a matter of months. I have been contacted by many of my members this weekend and It is clear that a good number of them share that view and have lost faith in your leadership.”

The Guardian understands that the shadow transport secretary, Lillian Greenwood, is likely to step down soon, with the Scotland secretary, Ian Murray, after that.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said Corbyn was going nowhere, and questioned if his opponents had got enough sleep since the EU referendum last week, in a move that could anger colleagues. He said: “We are on the path of building a majority government for Labour ... I think they should calm down and listen to their members.”

The resignations came as over 170,000 people signed up to a petition entitled a “vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn after Brexit”.

Momentum, the grassroots political movement that helped Corbyn to secure the leadership, has cranked up its own operations and is already planning to run phone banks to ensure that its 100,000 supporters are ready to help shore up the leader.

But the Guardian understands that even the most loyal shadow cabinet members are preparing to walk out, followed by more junior frontbenchers, and then interventions by council leaders, in a coup designed to destabilise the leadership.

A Labour source said Alexander’s decision to resign in the wake of Benn’s dismissal would prove hugely significant, because unlike the shadow foreign secretary she was a more “loyal and pragmatic” member of the Corbyn team.

A shadow cabinet source admitted that it would be difficult to beat Corbyn but that members had shifted position. One shadow cabinet source said: “I have been struck by the number of grassroots party members getting in touch with me over the last 24 hours who said they had voted for Jeremy but now he has to go.”

“She is seen as a moderate, practical and pragmatic voice,” they said. “Hilary always had a problem with Jeremy. Now that Heidi’s gone, most of the shadow cabinet will step down. He can’t just replace those positions because other frontbench ministers won’t step up to the roles.”

In her resignation letter to Corbyn, Alexander said: “It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to you to resign from the shadow cabinet...

“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.”

The Guardian understands Angela Eagle, Lucy Powell, Lisa Nandy, Chris Bryant, Luciana Berger, Gloria De Piero, Charlie Falconer, Ian Murray, Rosie Winterton and Andy Burnham could be among those to resign from the Labour front-bench on Sunday.

A spokesman for the leader insisted he has no intention of resigning. “Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically elected leader of the Labour party and will remain so,” the spokesman said.

An ally added: “They don’t have a candidate, they don’t have a programme, they don’t have the supporters to win a leadership election. Rather than self-indulgent destabilisation, they should work with the Labour leadership to respond to the a momentous national event that needs a united Labour party.

“He is not going to resign, and if there is a challenge he will fight it. Anyone that resigns can be replaced. It is obviously disappointing and a distraction. If they want to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership they can collect the nominations and stand. He will be standing for election.”

Diane Abbott, the shadow international development secretary and Corbyn’s staunch ally, said some her colleagues had been planning to launch a coup for months, whatever the result in the EU referendum.

She called the challenge to his leadership “a recipe for unhappiness” and called for the party to fall into line, saying his opponents could not challenge either the unions who back Corbyn or the membership, which overwhelmingly supports him.

“This has been planned for a long time. There has been a plan to challenge Jeremy for a long time, because many have failed to reconcile themselves with his victory last year.

“They have planned this for months, it would have happened almost whatever happened. They planned this for months, everyone knows that. They held off for the local elections because they didn’t want to disrupt the European campaign.

“I think there has been a group of MPs who have never reconciled themselves with last year’s leadership election and it has never stopped,” she said.

Abbott warned that they would not be able to overcome Corbyn’s support among the party’s members who voted overwhelmingly for him in last year’s leadership election.

“They are the ones who are picking a fight with the membership and we will have to see how that goes. If they want a new leader, they have to find a candidate and run for election. But this idea that it is all to do with the Euro referendum, is not true,” she said.

Benn turned on Corbyn after being sacked as shadow foreign secretary in a late-night phone call, telling the Labour leader that MPs and shadow cabinet members have “no confidence in our ability to win the election” under his leadership.

Corbyn sacked Benn in the early hours of Sunday morning after the Observer revealed that the shadow foreign secretary was preparing to lead a coup against him.

Shadow cabinet members told the Guardian that Corbyn’s decision to sack Benn could cause a mutiny. One loyal member said they were “staggered”. Another added: “A bad-tempered sacking is likely to lead to more trouble for Jeremy.”

There is a question over what happens next.

The mass resignations from the shadow cabinet will destabilise his leadership, and are likely to trigger a direct challenge. Corbyn’s team believe that he has the automatic right to be back on the ballot paper, knowing that he might struggle to get enough MPs to nominate him. But others disagree.

A Labour source said: “When Jeremy Corbyn nominated Tony Benn in 1988 against the democratically leader of the time, Neil Kinnock, Benn and Kinnock had to get nominations.”

No comments: