The Brexit vote looks likely to claim another victim. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who swept into the leadership post last September by promoting a far-left agenda, is under fierce attack within his own party for not supporting the Remain cause vigorously enough.
More than a dozen Labor shadow cabinet ministers have resigned and Corbyn lost a non-binding no confidence vote among Labor MPs in the wake of his tepid support for Britain to remain in the EU.
But Corbyn insists he’s not going anywhere.
The British Broadcasting Corp. said Mr. Corbyn lost a nonbinding confidence vote amongLabour lawmakers 172 to 40. Labour declined to confirm those numbers but said it had accepted a motion that the party’s lawmakers had no confidence in Mr. Corbyn as leader.
Mr. Corbyn has faced criticism for his relatively lukewarm endorsement of the EU during the referendum campaign, and some lawmakers fear Labour would be beaten if there is a snap general election if he remains the leader. More than two dozen people on Mr. Corbyn’s top team have resigned in the past two days, saying they have no confidence in his leadership.
Mr. Corbyn has insisted he will stay in the post and has said lawmakers who want to change the Labour leadership will have to stand in a formal contest against him.
Mr. Corbyn became leader of the party in September, winning almost 60% of 400,000 votes cast after pledges to fight government austerity policies and scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons. But despite his popularity among the grass roots, he has been dogged by criticism from some Labour lawmakers who are concerned he will turn off moderate voters who are seen as vital to winning British elections.
In a statement after the confidence vote, Mr. Corbyn said he would not betray Labour members and supporters by resigning.
“Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy,” he said, referring to members of Parliament. He urged party members, trade unionists and lawmakers to unite behind his leadership.
Britons’ vote to leave the EU in a national referendum last week has rocked the British political establishment. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party is facing a leadership election after he said he would resign by October to make way for a new prime minister to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU. Analysts say the new prime minister may then call an election to secure a mandate for his or her policies, including a plan for a new relationship with the EU.
“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,” Mr. Corbyn said. “To do that we need to stand together.”
Labor MPs have some excellent reasons for thinking that Corbyn only half-heartedly supported the “Remain” camp. Here are few choice words and deeds from his past:
- He voted in favour of leaving the European Economic Community in 1975.
- He voted against the Maastricht Treaty that created the EU. Here’s what he had to say about it — “It takes us in the opposite direction of an unelected legislative body—the Commission—and, in the case of foreign policy, a policy Commission that will be, in effect, imposing foreign policy on nation states that have fought for their own democratic accountability.”
- He voted against the Lisbon Treaty, which is the current constitutional basis for the EU.
- Writing about the Greek crisis last year Corbyn said: “There is no future for a Europe that turns its smaller nations into colonies of debt peonage.”
- In an LBC interview, Corbyn implied that the EU was treating Greece “brutally.” — “If Europe becomes a totally brutal organisation that treats every one of its member states in the way that the people of Greece have been treated at the moment, then I think Europe will lose a lot of support from a lot of people.”
- In an article on his website, Corbyn wrote that the EU was responsible for the gross abuse of human rights in Western Sahara. However, the article was deleted.
- In another deleted article on his website, Corbyn wrote this — “The project has always been to create a huge free-market Europe, with ever-limiting powers for national parliaments and an increasingly powerful common foreign and security policy.”
- A spokesman for Corbyn said the articles were deleted because they are “converting it [the website] to reflect his work as leader and afterwards.”
Corbyn is much further to the left than most mainstream Labor Party members. His beliefs are better reflected by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who threatened to leave the EU over the debt crisis, and the radical Podemos leader in Spain, Pablo Iglesias. The idea of a free market is an anathema to that trio.
Labor is looking for a scapegoat — so naturally they form a circular firing squad and let ‘er rip. If they’re experiencing the seven stages of grief over the lost Brexit vote and the revolt by ordinary people against their arrogant rule, they have yet to make it past the “denial” stage.
It’s hard to see how Corbyn can hold on to his leadership post when he received only 40 out of 212 votes from Labor MPs and most of his cabinet has resigned. You would expect his resignation by the weekend.