Sheffield Labour supporters are divided over future of Jeremy Corbyn

Sheffield Labour supporters are divided in their opinions over the future of party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of Brexit.

Monday, 27th June 2016, 6:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:41 pm
27 May 2016...Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Doncaster as part of the 'Remain' campaign and is joined by local MPs Ed Miliband, Rosie Winterton and Caroline Flint. Picture Scott Merrylees

Following last week’s referendum, where 51 per cent of voters backed Britain leaving the European Union, Mr Corbyn has been heavily criticised over his ‘lacklustre’ campaigning to remain in the EU.

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey is among those who have resigned from the shadow cabinet, while fellow South Yorkshire MP Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, has gone on the record to say she does ‘not believe Jeremy offers the strong leadership required at this difficult time.’

The Star took to the streets of Sheffield to find out what locals think about the future of Mr Corbyn as Labour leader.

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Although some had faith inhim, many found it difficult to see the current leader, and the party as a whole, as right for the job.

Jeremy Hall, aged 55, a project manager from the city centre, said: “Labour seems to be in chaos at the moment after the Brexit poll, so I think they need to sort themselves out.”

Finance manager, Simon Sheldon, 44, agreed and said: “In the current state at the moment, the Labour Party, I don’t think it’s fit for purpose. There’s a lot of revolt going off and I think they just need to step back and decide what they’re doing.”

Hannah Sturridge, aged 24, expressed her dissatisfaction with the current political situation and said Brexit has affected younger people like herself regarding unemployment.

Other locals were more supportive of Mr Corbyn’s leadership. Sales representative Andy Gray said the Labour party’s ability to lead is about more than just Brexit.

The 22-year-old, from Queen Street, said: “The European issue, which we have just had, is just one issue and the Labour party stands for a lot more than just that. I think Corbyn seems reasonably popular around people my age and going forward they still might be strong.”

The Remain voters expressed disappointment at the overall Brexit outcome but one said Labour are more representative than the Conservative party.

Sarah Bridge, a 28-year-old trainee teacher from Upperthorpe, said: “I am very against the whole Brexit thing so I find it very difficult to talk about really because I wouldn’t like anyone to take us forward with that. But if anyone was going to take us forward with Brexit, Labour are the only people who I know what they’re planning on doing.”

The Labour party itself is also divided on Mr Corbyn’s leadership. He has faced many high profile resignations from his shadow cabinet since the initial sacking of Yorkshire MP Hilary Benn.

One of the latest resignations came from Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, who said he personally handed his resignation letter to Mr Corbyn after meetings today. In the letter he said: “I am deeply disappointed with the discussion and by your failure to recognise the turmoil after the referendum vote, a likely autumn election, the responsibility to hold the Labour Party together and the very wide – and ever widening – concerns about your leadership require a fresh leadership election, with you stepping aside as Leader to seek a new mandate if you aspire to lead Labour into the coming General Election.”

He added Mr Corbyn was ‘not prepared’ to ‘accept social responsibility’ in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Solictor James Stonehouse, aged 31, from the south east of the city, commented on the resignations and current Labour leadership. He said: “I think it remains to be seen whether or not the Labour party is right for Sheffield following Brexit. The response of the party at the moment seems to have been somewhat muted. They’re embroiled in turmoil following all these resignations. I think we need to watch this space. I’m not personally entirely happy with the present leadership of the party.”

However, there is some support for the leader of the Labour Party. Sheffield Trades Union Congress, the body which represents trade union branches in the city, has backed Mr Corbyn’s leadership and urged Sheffield Labour MPs to avoid backing a ‘coup’ attempt against Corbyn, led by members of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Sheffield TUC secretary, Martin Mayer said: “A divisive new leadership contest would risk bringing civil war into our Party at a time when we need to unite and fight the Tories and engage with our working class communities ravaged by austerity spending cuts on housing, welfare and jobs .

“Had Labour MPs respected his overwhelming democratic mandate and given Jeremy their backing from the start instead of a constant stream of bitter personal attacks and public acts of disloyalty, then Labour would be riding much higher in the polls. There is no doubt Jeremy is highly popular among Labour voters.”

He said Mr Corbyn fought a ‘tireless and honest’ EU campaign, rejecting the view he lost the EU referendum for Remain.

Mr Corbyn was elected by a massive majority of the Labour Party’s rank and file membership nine months ago. Sheffield TUC said they see this as a ‘clear statement that the Party wanted a major shift away from New Labour politics of ‘austerity-light’ and a new vision of positive investment, sustainable growth, decent jobs, trade union rights, a council house rebuilding programme and a strong welfare state.’

However Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith said: “I respect Jeremy Corbyn as a man of principle. However in the light of the new circumstances that we face as a country following the EU Referendum, I do not believe Jeremy offers the strong leadership required at this difficult time. After a lacklustre performance in the EU Referendum, I have drawn the conclusion that Jeremy is not the strong and effective leader that we need, and the country needs in the forthcoming period, characterised as it will be by political and economic instability.”

Other Sheffield Labour MPs including Gill Furniss, Clive Betts, Paul Blomfield and Louise Haigh have not commented.