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20 July 2016

Lilian Greenwood MP: Look at my record if you think my resignation was a Blairite plot

The former shadow secretary of state for Transport was a trade union official for two decades. 

By Julia Rampen

When it comes to trains, Lilian Greenwood is an anorak. After winning her Nottingham South seat in 2010, she immediately joined the Transport select committee. By 2011, she was the shadow Transport minister and when Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader she was promoted to shadow secretary of state. 

So her decision to quit a post she clearly loved provokes a lot of awkward questions for Cobynites. 

Greenwood was one of the shadow cabinet MPs to tender her resignation in the wake of Brexit. But she is insistent that it wasn’t an ideological split.

She told The Staggers: “Look at my record. I am not a ‘Blairite’, and I came from the same union [as Jeremy Corbyn].  I was a trade union official for two decades. 

“I have got a track record of standing up for issues like the NHS. This isn’t about policy – it is about competence.”

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Greenwood made headlines this week after she published a speech she made to her constituency party members. According to her speech, the decision to resign came after a series of frustrations that were not ideological, but practical. 

In particular, Corbyn’s timing of a surprise reshuffle meant Greenwood’s plan to make headlines on a rail fare hike was overshadowed.

“Jeremy and I completely agree it is absolutely right to bring the franchises back into public ownership,” she said. “We had the best opportunity in the year to really go on hard at the Tories. We were out at Kings Cross station, and we had the press and TV, and then he went back to his office and started the reshuffle that took three days.”

True to her trade union roots, Greenwood places huge store on collective agreement. But the picture she paints of the shadow cabinet is one where group decisions were overruled by the decisions of Corbyn and his shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, sometimes on the hoof. 

She said: “Sometimes we did reach collective decisions in shadow cabinet and then Jeremy or John would do something completely differently from what was agreed. It undermined you. 

“It is no surprise that if you spend 32 years on the back benches flouting the Labour Whip, that being back on a team is an adjustment. 

“Members of the shadow cabinet expected there would be an adjustment, but I didn’t expect that would still be the case months later.”

When Angela Eagle decided to challenge Corbyn for the leadership, Greenwood supported her, but after her decision to drop out is now backing Owen Smith. 

She praised Smith as “hugely talented” but her overarching concern isn’t about one personality. As she put it: “The most important thing is operating as a team.”