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19 October 2015

Lord Warner resigns Labour whip – but few on the left will mourn

The former health minister backed NHS charges and greater private sector involvement. 

By George Eaton

For the first time since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, a parliamentarian has resigned the party whip in protest at his direction. The Guardian reports that Lord Warner, who was a health minister from 2003-2007, will sit as a cross-bencher after declaring that Labour “is no longer a credible party of government-in-waiting”.

In his resignation letter to Corbyn, Warner wrote: “I have watched for some time the declining quality of the Labour Party’s leadership, but had not expected the calamitous decline achieved in 2015. The Labour Party is no longer a credible party of government-in-waiting. The approach of those around you and your own approach and policies is highly likely to to worsen the decline and in the Labour Party’s credibilty.

“I fear for the future of the Labour Party if your supporting activists secure ever control of the party’s apparatus and process, and the role of the Parliamentary Labour Party diminishes further in the selection of a leader and the formulation of policies likely to win an election.”

No resignation can be spun as entirely positive. But it is helpful for Corbyn that Warner last year proposed a £10-a-month NHS patients’ fee and voted with the Conservatives in favour of Section 75 (the only Labour peer to do so), opening the health service to greater private sector involvement. Few on the left will mourn his departure. 

But after Andrew Adonis, the former transport secretary and schools minister, resigned the whip earlier this month (albeit to chair the National Infrastructure Commission – he remains a Labour member), the Tories will argue that Labour under Corbyn is no home for public service reformers. 

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