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British Labour Party Leader Loses No Confidence Vote

In the latest example of the political backlash growing out of last week’s Brexit vote, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, lost a no-confidence vote among Labour’s Members of Parliament, but he says he will not leave office even as his position seems to become more and more precarious:

LONDON — Britain’s political turmoil deepened Tuesday, with members of the opposition Labour Party rebelling against their leader in a no-confidence vote while the governing Conservatives started to joust over the selection of a new prime minister to replace David Cameron.

The turbulence — spawned by the country’s stunning vote to exit the European Union last Thursday — has already claimed Cameron’s political career. The prime minister is stepping aside just a year after he won a sweeping general election victory.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, could be the next to go following Tuesday’s mutinous vote among Labour’s members in Parliament. In a secret ballot, 172 members said they had no confidence in their leader. Just 40 backed him.

Tuesday’s vote is nonbinding, but it is likely to lead to a new leadership contest that could deepen divisions within a party already riven with fractures between its moderate and hard-left factions.

Corbyn has suggested he will run again — and he could well win, given his popularity with the rank and file.

But Tuesday’s vote shows that his own colleagues in Parliament want him gone. Corbyn’s detractors in Labour blame him for a lackluster campaign to keep Britain in the E.U. Although Labour officially supported the “remain” camp, Corbyn was a fleeting presence on the campaign trail, and polls showed that many Labour members were not aware of their party’s official position.

Corbyn — a north London politician whose views have been compared to those of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — was defiant after the vote, pledging not to step down.

“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning,” he wrote in a statement released within minutes of the result being revealed. “Today’s vote by [members of Parliament] has no constitutional legitimacy.”

In a show of strength late Monday, the eve of the vote, up to 1,000 Corbyn backers rallied in the central square opposite the soaring towers of Westminster, Parliament’s home.

“Don’t let the media divide us. Don’t let those people who wish us ill divide us,” Corbyn told his cheering backers. “Stay together, strong and united, for the kind of world we want to live in.”

Corbyn’s predicament comes only nine months after he emerged from the far-left fringe to take ownership of a party that last governed under the more centrist Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Corbyn, who was never popular with the party’s lawmakers despite enjoying widespread grass-roots support, has faced dozens of defections among his top lieutenants since the referendum results.

But Corbyn critics say he was an ambivalent campaigner — at best — for Britain’s continued place in the E.U. Corbyn had long been a fierce critic of the E.U., believing it had become a tool of corporations and other vested interests.

A former member of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, Chris Bryant, told the BBC on Monday that he believed the Labour leader may have actually voted to leave in the privacy of the voting booth. Corbyn’s backers have disputed that.

In a speech Tuesday, senior Labour politician Yvette Cooper — who lost to Corbyn in last year’s leadership contest — said she hoped he would step aside.

“I am very concerned that Jeremy Corbyn has no plan to reunite the Labour movement, no plan to respond to the deep and serious issues the referendum has thrown up, and no plan for a looming general election,” she said.

Although no new vote is planned until 2020, the unexpected referendum result has turned British politics upside down, and some are now advocating for a fresh vote once the Tories have chosen their new prime minister.

At this point, it’s not at all clear that there actually will be early elections, but that seems to be the conclusion that many political analysts are reaching at this early stage. If that happens, it appears that many in Labour don’t really have much confidence that a candidate like Corbyn will stand well with the general public against whomever the Conservative Party chooses as its new leader, a process that is likely to work itself out over the course of the summer with a final vote by Conservative Party member taking place some time in September or October. In that case, a snap election would most likely be scheduled for late 2016 or early 2017, but even that is unclear at this point.

 

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Two points:
    1. Unlike the Conservative Party, where the MPs elect the head, the Labour Party head is chosen by the members, so this no-confidence vote is entirely symbolic
    2. The Labour Party is unlikely to win the election. Their path to victory depends on progressive support in Scotland, which has been decimated by the SNP in recent elections. The Brexit vote is unlikely to change that dynamic.

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  2. JohnMcC says:

    I had mistakenly thought that I understood the British political system. Now I learn that Mr Corbyn has lost a no-confidence vote but has refuse to step down. WTF!

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  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    @JohnMcC:

    As I said, in the Labour Party, the head isn’t chosen by the MPs, so the fact they have no confidence in him is irrelevant to his maintaining the position. If he were the Prime Minister or the head of the Conservative Party, he would have to step down.

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  4. I do not even understand how I ended up here, but I assumed this put up was great.
    I do not understand who you are but certainly you are going to a well-known blogger in the event you aren’t already.
    Cheers!

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  5. grumpy realist says:

    What none of the politicians in the UK seem to understand is Drift Ain’t Your Friend. Companies and business entities hate, HATE uncertainty. They’d prefer to deal with a total collapse and the rebuilding.

    Hence, the longer the U.K. dithers, the more industry will hedge. Which means splitting into two sectors (one in the U.K, one in the E.U.) They’re going to set themselves up to assume that the U.K. will do mind-boggingly stupid things (because they just did).

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  6. grumpy realist says:

    totally OT, but if there was ever a reason to drag out the tumbrils…..

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