Labour MPs have voted that they have no confidence in their leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Following a secret no confidence ballot, 172 MPs voted that they had no confidence in the Labour leader, to 40 who voted in support. There were 216 votes in total, out of 229 Labour MPs. There were 13 who abstained, and four spoilt ballots. That’s a turnout of 95 per cent, with 80 per cent declaring no confidence in their leader.
The motion for a no confidence ballot was tabled by Margaret Hodge MP last week, following the British public voting for Brexit in the EU referendum. Corbyn’s detractors accuse him of letting Labour down for failing to campaign successfully for a Remain vote.
The Labour press office comments:
“Following the ballot conducted today, the Parliamentary Labour Party has accepted the following motion:
“That this PLP has no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.”
The outcome of the ballot comes after a wave of resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, which have been arriving thick and fast since the weekend following the referendum result. It is thought that Corbyn now has yet to fill at least half of the positions in his shadow frontbench. If you’re wondering who has resigned, check out our liveblog. And for who’s been newly appointed to the shadow cabinet, our list is here.
Corbyn has responded to the outcome, informing his party that he will not stand down:
“In the aftermath of last week’s referendum, our country faces major challenges. Risks to the economy and living standards are growing. The public is divided.
“The Government is in disarray. Ministers have made it clear they have no exit plan, but are determined to make working people pay with a new round of cuts and tax rises.
“Labour has the responsibility to give a lead where the Government will not. We need to bring people together, hold the Government to account, oppose austerity and set out a path to exit that will protect jobs and incomes.
“To do that we need to stand together. Since I was elected leader of our party nine months ago, we have repeatedly defeated the Government over its attacks on living standards.
“Last month, Labour become the largest party in the local elections. In Thursday’s referendum, a narrow majority voted to leave, but two thirds of Labour supporters backed our call for a remain vote.
“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.
“We are a democratic party, with a clear constitution. Our people need Labour party members, trade unionists and MPs to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country.”
So what happens now? If any MP wishes to challenge him, they can trigger a leadership contest. To do this, they will have to receive 50 nominations (the support of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs). Once they formally have this support, they have to write to the party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, announcing their intention to run. My colleague George has the latest on who is likely to challenge Corbyn.
The party rules on whether the incumbent automatically has a place on the leadership ballot are murky. Some believe he doesn’t need to amass nominations all over again to stand. Others, particularly his opponents, point to legal advice sought by the party last year that suggests he would have to gain 50 nominations, like his challengers. They are clinging on to this interpretation, because they fear that Corbyn would simply be voted in again by the party’s membership, which is significantly more left wing than the parliamentary party.
But even if Corbyn does have to collect this level of support, there’s no guarantee that his unpopularity in the PLP would mean he would be unable to make the ballot. He received 36 nominations last time, so his support among MPs is actually up by four, according to the result of the no confidence ballot. Considering his difficulty gaining enough nominations last June (he received his final nomination minutes before the deadline), it is unlikely. But not impossible.
Yet there is equally no certainty that he would win among the membership, which returned him by a landslide last September. Lots of the new members and signed-up supporters are devastated about Brexit, and have been baffled by Corbyn’s reticence about campaigning for Remain. (Of course, a cursory glance at his voting record by any of his fans would have proved that he really is the stubborn man of principle they so praise him for being: he has been a steadfast eurosceptic for decades). It’s unlikely they wouldn’t back him, considering how strongly they voted for him so recently. But, again, not impossible.