Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh has revealed it was ‘an incredibly difficult decision’ to back a ‘no confidence’ vote in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms Haigh, who nominated Mr Corbyn in the Labour leadership race, but backed Andy Burnham, said she raised concerns about the leader’s competency in a recent meeting.
The Heeley MP had kept quiet until last night when a private email was sent out to constituency members outlining her position.
Ms Haigh, who was elected with a huge majority in 2015, said Mr Corbyn and his team were not ‘particularly committed’ and on occasions ‘actively obstructed’ the EU referendum campaign.
But she added she did not hold Mr Corbyn responsible for the EU referendum result and it ‘wasn’t the reason’ for her no confidence vote.
The Labour leader has been rocked by dozens of high profile resignations from his front bench and lost a no confidence vote by 172 MPs to 40.
But Mr Corbyn is expected to stay on and contest an inevitable leadership challenge after more than 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters voted to install him as party leader.
Ms Haigh acknowledged the members support for the party leader but said Mr Corbyn needed a ‘parliamentary mandate’ from his own MPs as well.
Ms Haigh’s email in full.
“I’m writing obviously in response to the events of the last 10 days. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve received many hundreds of emails about the current issues in the Labour Party on all sides of the debate, all of which I have taken time to consider very carefully. Over the last week I have resisted all media calls to comment on the deepening crisis; I have always refused to provide a running commentary on internal Labour matters as I believe our grievances should be discussed privately. I appreciate, however, that everyone is very anxious about the current state of affairs and keen to know my thoughts so I want to be completely honest with you about where I think we are now.
“Last Friday at our monthly CLP we had a discussion around the EU referendum campaign and the impending motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. Here, in our bit of Sheffield, local members ran a fantastic campaign on Europe but sadly the result was very disappointing. Nationally, I do not believe that Jeremy and his team were particularly committed to the campaign and on some occasions they actively obstructed it but I do not believe we can lay the blame for the vote with Jeremy. My experience in that campaign was of many people in areas such as Arbourthorne, Gleadless Valley and Jordanthorpe who felt alienated and disenfranchised from the political establishment and who voted to Leave. No one person could have turned the tide on that wave of resentment that has been growing in these communities, like so many similar communities around the country, over the last 15-plus years. However, I did make clear at that meeting that I had concerns around the competency of the current leadership and Jeremy’s wider team.
“I strongly believe that the motion of no confidence was brought forward at the wrong time – when the country had just taken a huge and potentially catastrophic decision, when the Tories were in meltdown and when we had a very serious job to do as an opposition. However, over the weekend and on Monday the sacking and resignations of so many of the frontbench team left the situation untenable. Consequently, on Tuesday when I was asked ‘do you have confidence in the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn?’ I couldn’t honestly say that I did, as I could not see any way that this situation could continue.
This was an incredibly difficult decision as I have been totally supportive of Jeremy since his election, I voted with him against the Welfare Bill, I oppose the renewal of Trident and I know we need an end to austerity. I have served, and continue to serve, on his front bench and I have only ever been positive in the media and in public about him. Any concerns I’ve had have always been raised privately. Yet now I really believe that we cannot continue as we are. We are currently not able to fulfil the very basic, day-to-day operation as the Official Opposition in Parliament, which now more than ever is vital as we enter Brexit negotiations.
“This has been an incredibly hard two weeks. I am so sorry that it has come to this. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the country faces its biggest challenge since World War Two. It is now our duty, first and foremost, to hold the Leave campaign to account and to offer a new radicalism to the British people. And I do not think we are currently capable of that. I completely respect the mandate Jeremy has from the membership, but in order to lead Labour in Westminster he has to have a parliamentary mandate too.
“I think it’s right that colleagues currently in the Shadow Cabinet have called for a period of calm so that everyone can take a breath and look at where we are. If there is any way to find a solution, to bring unity and to get on with opposing the government, I will support that. If that doesn’t happen, then we must have a leadership election, under the quickest possible timescale from which everyone must unite and abide by its result.
“I just want to reiterate how difficult and unpleasant this has all been. I take absolutely no joy in any of it; I feel desperately sorry that we have all let down those who supported Jeremy, but I am afraid we are now at an impasse and, with a General Election potentially looming, I believe we cannot continue as we currently are.”