LABOUR MEMBERS in the North played a significant part in Jeremy Corbyn’s successful defence of his leadership, voting research suggests.
A YouGov ‘exit poll’ found 64 per cent of Labour members in the North backed Mr Corbyn, the highest proportion of any region in the country.
Mr Corbyn triumphed across most demographics but rival Owen Smith, the Pontypridd MP, won the support of 63 per cent of people who were members before the last general election and a majority of those aged 18 to 24.
The latter finding significantly challenges the view that Corbyn has energised younger members of the party.
Mr Corbyn was announced as the winner of the leadership election in Liverpool today where Labour is gathering for its annual conference.
Corbyn polled 313,209 votes in the Labour leadership election to Smith’s 193,229 votes.
He won with 61.8 per cent of the vote, a bigger share than last year although facing just one opponent this time.
Speaking after the announcement, Mr Corbyn called on all sides of the party to respect the result and unite and welcomed his “second mandate” just a year after his last leadership triumph.
He said: “I will do everything I can to repay the trust and the support, to bring our party together, to make it an engine of progress for our country and the people that depend on the Labour Party, to protect their interests and win power to deliver real change in this country.”
Mr Corbyn said he was ready to “wipe the slate clean” and promised to tackle the abuse his critics within the party have faced.
“It’s not my, it’s not the Labour way and it never will be,” he said.
The Labour leader insisted he had “no doubt” the party could win the next general election.
In a statement following the result Mr Smith said he would “reflect carefully” on the result and what role he would play in the future.
Labour MPs, who triggered the contest with a vote of no confidence, now face the choice of whether to unite behind Mr Corbyn or face further wrath from party members for their stance.
Senior Yorkshire Labour MPs including former shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves are among those who have always declined to serve in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet while Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher was sacked by the Labour leader in January for apparent disloyalty.
Writing on Twitter after the result, Mr Dugher said: “Everyone in Labour must now focus on the issues that matter to our communities & to the country. Time to get back in touch with the public.”
Mr Corbyn has suggested olive branches will be offered after his victory but it remains to be seen who will be invited back into his team and whether they will agree.
Writing for The Huffington Post before the result was known this morning, Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey said it was “time to give our full attention to the public”.
Calling for the return of shadow cabinet elections to help unite the party he wrote: “It’s not about sitting at the Shadow Cabinet table or bums on frontbench seats. The purpose of a strong frontbench in Parliament is to do much better for the millions of people who so badly need and want a Labour government.”
Union leaders were among the first to welcome Corbyn’s victory, but said Labour now has a big challenge ahead.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “Jeremy Corbyn has won because he’s captured the imagination of party members.
“People are inspired by his promises to end austerity, fix our broken public services and build a different kind of economy.
“But the scale of the political challenge facing Labour cannot be ignored. The party already faced an uphill battle to convince the British people before this unhelpful leadership contest.
“A way must be found so Labour can come together - using the talents of the best MPs from across the party in the shadow cabinet, taking the fight to the Tories, rather than fighting one another.
“Jeremy must show those sceptical about his leadership that he has the ability and the ideas to win an election, and enable Labour to regain the support of the British people.”
Conservative Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin said: “Labour are too divided, distracted and incompetent to build a country that works for everyone. 172 Labour MPs don’t think Jeremy Corbyn can lead the Labour Party - so how can he lead the country?
“Instead of learning lessons from the past, they have engaged in a bitter power struggle that will continue even after they’ve picked a leader.
“While Labour row amongst themselves, this Conservative government will continue to deliver a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”