Sheffield MP rejects by-election calls after quitting Labour Party, insisting voters knew what they were getting

A Sheffield MP has rejected calls for a by-election after resigning from Labour, insisting constituents knew what they were getting when they voted her in two years ago.

Tuesday, 19th February 2019, 13:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th February 2019, 13:37 pm

Angela Smith was one of seven MPs who announced yesterday they had quit the party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, forming the breakaway Independent Group alliance.

She has faced calls from some voters in her Penistone & Stocksbridge constituency to resign from her seat and re-stand as an independent, which the local Labour group said would be the ‘honourable path’ to take.

Angela Smith MP

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But she today ruled out stepping down and sparking a by-election, claiming it was not her who had changed since the last general election but the party she stood for.

“I was elected in 2017 as a Labour MP who was very clear with my voters about the values I stood for,” she said….

“My values are the same and on that basis my voters knew what I stood for, so there’s no reason to go back to the electorate. It’s the Labour Party that’s changed, not my values.”

She claimed many Labour supporters had told her when she was canvassing two years ago that they were reluctant to vote for a party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

“We brought them back on board by telling them he wouldn’t win the election but we needed to deprive Theresa May of the massive majority she was looking for,” she added.

Asked whether she and her fellow defectors were simply doing the Conservatives a favour, she responded that none of the parties was ‘fit for power’ and the rebels were simply filling a ‘vacuum’ in centrist politics. She also said she believed it would take 10-15 years to make Labour electable again.

Ms Smith lost a vote of no confidence by her Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in November, raising doubts as to whether she would be selected to represent the party again anyway.

But she said she had been thinking about quitting Labour since shortly after the last election, when she claimed the ‘hard left ownership of the party was consolidated and extended’.

Asked whether she planned to stand at the next election, she said only that she would ‘make the decision at the appropriate time'.

Within hours of quitting Labour, Ms Smith was apologising for sparking a racism row by saying in a live TV interview ‘it’s not just about being black or a funny tinge’.

“I was very tired at that point, having been on the go since 7am with no break whatsoever. I misspoke very badly. I’m very sorry for what I said, which is really not what I am,” she said.

Ms Smith said she the reaction from her constituents to her quitting Labour had been largely positive, with many emailing in support, but The Star's readers were less impressed.

Many demanded a by-election, including John Kenney, who said ‘she got elected thanks to a lot of hard work from party volunteers wanting a Labour MP’, and Paul Flewitt, who called on her to ‘do the decent thing and stand down’.

Others referred to her support for a People's Vote, giving the British public the option to stay in the EU, despite estimates suggesting her constituents had voted 61 per cent in favour of leaving.

Julie Humphries wrote: “Her constituents voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. She had already been deselected by Labour. She only has one person's interests at heart and that's her own.”

Some readers were supportive, though.

Geoffrey Howarth wrote ‘well done her and said nothing wrong’, while Jim Evans commented ‘I think she is right. They’re not for the working people anymore, but for their own ends’.