Britain’s Opposition Labour party was thrown into turmoil on Sunday after Jeremy Corbyn sacked his foreign secretary Hilary Ben while other members of the shadow cabinet are set to step down as divisions within the party emerged over the veteran socialist leader’s handling of the EU referendum.
Ben was sacked after he said he no longer had confidence in Corbyn’s leadership. Soon after, his colleague, shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander announced her resignation on Twitter.
Other members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet are also expected to follow suit as many of the Labour MPs have been critical of Corbyn’s handling of Britain’s EU referendum.
The shock decision by the country to vote to leave the 28-member European Union was against the wishes of most Labour lawmakers.
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“There is no confidence to win the next election if Jeremy continues as leader. In a phone call to Jeremy I told him I had lost confidence in his ability to lead the party and he dismissed me,” Ben said.
After Benn was sacked, other Labour MPs came out in his support.
67-year-old Corbyn faces a vote of no confidence over claims he was lacklustre and half-hearted during the EU referendum campaigning.
Labour MPs Dame Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey had submitted a motion of no confidence against Corbyn to Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) chairman John Cryer soon after the results of the EU referendum in favour of Brexit.
The motion has no formal constitutional force but calls for a discussion at the PLP’s next meeting tomorrow.
The chairman will decide whether it is debated. If accepted, a secret ballot of Labour MPs could be held on Tuesday.
The Labour party campaigned for Remain during the referendum but it was widely felt that the party leader did not do enough to convince Labour voters after a 52-48 per cent result in favour of Leave.
In her resignation letter, Alexander said “Our country needs an effective opposition which can hold the government to account. 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.”
A spokesperson for the Labour leader however said, “Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party and will remain so.”
In a speech on Saturday, Corbyn said: “I did all I could… Two-thirds of Labour voters voted for Remain in response to our party’s call for that. There are some people in the Parliamentary Labour Party who would probably want somebody else being the leader of this party, they have made that abundantly clear in the past few days.”
Asked if he would stand again if there was a challenge to his leadership, he said: “Yes, I’m here, thank you.”
This is the greatest threat Corbyn has faced to his leadership since he was elected leader of the Labour party just under a year ago.