Monday 24 October 2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says he will 'not betray' party's members by resigning after losing vote of confidence

Published 28/06/2016 | 16:39

Jeremy Corbyn, leaves his home in London, Britain June 28, 2016. Reuters/Neil Hall
Jeremy Corbyn, leaves his home in London, Britain June 28, 2016. Reuters/Neil Hall

A defiant Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not "betray" his supporters by resigning following an overwhelming vote of no confidence by MPs.

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The Labour leader said the vote by the Parliamentary Labour Party had no "constitutional legitimacy" under party rules.

Although there was no official announcement of the voting figures, sources said that it was 172 to 40 in support of the motion with four spoilt papers.

In a statement, Mr Corbyn said: "I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today's vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.

"We are a democratic party, with a clear constitution. Our people need Labour party members, trade unionists and MPs to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country."

Mr Corbyn's determination to fight on - despite the vote and the walk-out of dozens of shadow ministers - means the Labour rebels will have to mount a formal leadership challenge if they want to oust him.

Speculation has been rife that deputy leader Tom Watson or former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle - who quit the shadow cabinet on Monday - could run as a "unity" candidate.

Mr Corbyn's supporters are confident that he will win out in a ballot of grassroots activists who swept him to the leadership last year and who will decide the outcome of any contest.

His team insist that if there is a challenge, he will automatically be on the ballot paper as the incumbent party leader.

But some in the party have argued that under party rules he will need the nominations of 50 MPs and MEPs in which case he could struggle to get the necessary support.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "The extraordinary behaviour of Labour MPs has achieved nothing beyond diverting attention from a Tory government in crisis.

"If anyone wants to change the Labour leadership, they must do it openly and democratically through an election, not through resignations and pointless posturing.

"If there has to be such an election, Jeremy Corbyn's supporters throughout the movement will be ready for it."

A Labour source loyal to Mr Corbyn insisted "our support is still strong" and any attempt to oust the leader would amount to "shoving two fingers up to democracy".

The source said "a quarter of a million people made a decision, 172 ain't going to change that".

Rebels who refused to accept Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell were compared to people who still believed the earth was flat

"There are a lot of flat earthers out there who have got to come to terms with the fact the world is not as they like it," the source said.

The source poured scorn on the prospect of a challenge from Ms Eagle saying she would be "the ideal candidate for us" because of her voting record on issues such as the air strikes against Syria.

Labour grandees tore into Mr Corbyn over his decision to continue despite the no confidence motion.

Former foreign secretary Jack Straw said Mr Corbyn's position was "wholly untenable" and the leadership crisis could be the worst in Labour's history.

"This is the most serious crisis to have affected the Labour Party certainly since 1935, when I'm afraid we had a rather incompetent pacifist leader," he said in a reference to George Lansbury's term in office.

On Sky News, Mr Straw added: "It's probably the worst crisis since Labour's formation, in its current form, in 1918."

He said the European Union referendum campaign demonstrated that Mr Corbyn "doesn't have the capabilities to be a leader".

Former home secretary Lord Blunkett warned that Labour would be "annihilated" in a general election if Mr Corbyn remained leader.

"The great betrayal is not of the members who voted for him - God bless them - 10 months ago," he told BBC News.

"The great betrayal is of the nine million people who voted last year, the three million we should be endeavouring to win over in a future election and the people that we seek to serve. If Jeremy's not got it now, I don't know when he will get it.

"We don't want a third of Labour MPs - or even more - wiped out because Jeremy Corbyn would not be prepared to stand down and relinquish gracefully the leadership of the party to someone who can command the credibility."

The pressure on the Labour leader continued to mount throughout the day with further resignations, including shadow sports minister Clive Efford, shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead and shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, who quit after turning down a promotion to the shadow cabinet.

Here are some of the key moments from Corbyn's tumultuous nine months as leader:

  • September 12: Elected leader by a landslide, trouncing three more mainstream rivals with almost 60% of votes, including nearly half of those cast by party members. Makes long-time left-wing ally John McDonnell shadow chancellor in one of a number of controversial appointments.
  • September 30: Declares that he would never launch a nuclear strike if he was prime minister. Among those angered is shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle who says they "undermine" her policy review.
  • October 14: Suffers Commons rebellion after dramatic late U-turn sees MPs told to vote against Government commitment to a budget surplus. Mr McDonnell admits repeatedly that it was an "embarrassing" shambles.
  • October 19: Insists he will not support changes to Labour's rules which would make it easier for constituency parties to deselect sitting MPs amid claims his supporters are manoeuvring to oust moderates.
  • November 17: Forced to clarify comments, in the wake of the Paris attacks, that he was "not happy" with UK police operating a "shoot to kill" policy. Says would support "strictly necessary force" in the event of a terror attack.
  • November 29: Dismisses talk of being forced out amid open revolt over his refusal to commit to a free vote for Labour MPs on the UK joining air strikes in Syria. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm enjoying every moment of it," he declares. Within days he has allowed the free vote, prompting Mr Cameron to seek approval, but warning opponents it means there is "no hiding place" for their views.
  • December 2: Some 66 Labour MPs - including 11 from the shadow cabinet - vote in favour of air strikes despite the leader's implacable resistance. The party splits are starkly illustrated by shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn making a widely lauded speech from the despatch box in favour.
  •  December 3: Issues a message to party members and supporters saying he won't tolerate "abuse and intimidation from whatever quarter it comes" amid reports of death threats against MPs who voted for air strikes in Syria. Some MPs blame Mr Corbyn's anti-war backers.
  • January 7: Completes a three-day reshuffle in which three shadow ministers resigned in protest at some of the replacements.
  •  January 13: Reveals his "ultimate object of desire" is a red Raleigh bicycle, retailing at £475.
  • February 18: Tells a meeting of the Party of European Socialists in Brussels that David Cameron's talks with European leaders were a "theatrical sideshow". The Labour leader, who has been a critic of the EU, said his party would campaign for the UK to stay in whatever the outcome of the negotiations.
  • March 23: A document leaked to The Times reveals that Labour MPs have been divided into five groups, citing whether they are a supporter or hostile towards Mr Corbyn. The Labour leader's office denies it comes from them although it shows Mr Corbyn has more opponents than supporters within his own party.
  • April 5: Calls for HM Revenue and Customs to launch an investigation into all those implicated in the Panama Papers tax haven revelations, including David Cameron's family.
  • April 29: Sets up an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism within Labour as he battles to assert control over his party following the suspension of former London mayor Ken Livingstone over comments he made regarding Hitler and the state of Israel.
  • May 6: Labour slips to third in the Scottish parliament elections behind the SNP and Conservatives. While the party held on to two safe seats in Westminster by-elections and losses in English councils were lower than some predicted, frustrations with Mr Corbyn's leadership bubbled to the surface. Two bright wins for Labour were in Bristol and London where the party's mayoral candidates were both victorious.
  • June 11: Mr Corbyn appears on Channel 4 comedy chat show The Last Leg where he admits half of Labour MPs would relish seeing him fail.
  • June 23/24: Britain votes to leave the EU, with many Labour voters ignoring their party's advice and choosing Brexit. A motion of no confidence in Mr Corbyn is made by MP Margaret Hodge over his perceived failure to rally the Labour vote behind the Remain campaign.
  •  June 25/26/27: Mr Corbyn sacks shadow foreign secretary Hillary Benn, prompting the resignation of more than 40 Labour frontbenchers calling on the leader to resign.

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