Three British Labour MPs resign after reshuffle

Wednesday 06 January 2016 23.46
Hilary Benn (L) had been widely expected to be dropped by Jeremy Corbyn (R)
Hilary Benn (L) had been widely expected to be dropped by Jeremy Corbyn (R)

Three British Labour Party members have resigned in the wake of leader Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle.

Mr Corbyn was hit with the three resignations from his front bench after he sacked two "disloyal" senior figures and promoted an opponent of the Trident nuclear deterrent.

After more than 30 hours of apparently bitter reshuffle wrangling, Mr Corbyn stopped short of dismissing shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.

But he added Europe spokesman Pat McFadden to the casualty list alongside shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher.

A senior Labour source said Mr Corbyn had reached an "agreement" with Mr Benn that there could be no repeat of the situation over Syria airstrikes, when they set out opposing views from the despatch box in the House of Commons.

The changes, finalised in the early hours of this morning, sparked dismay from some Labour MPs, but were far less dramatic than some had predicted, with Blairites such as shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer retaining their posts.

Maria Eagle is being shifted from shadow defence secretary to replace Mr Dugher, having been seen as blocking Mr Corbyn's desire to oppose renewal of the UK's nuclear deterrent.

Her berth is taken by Emily Thornberry, who is in line with the leader on Trident.

Mr Dugher had shown "incompetence" and "serial disloyalty", while Mr McFadden had made thinly-veiled criticisms of the leader on issues such as his response to the Paris terror attacks.

"Some shadow cabinet ministers had got into the habit of regularly attacking the elected leadership, tipping over into abuse," the source said.

Installing Mrs Thornberry as defence secretary was seen as crucial with a key Commons vote on renewing Trident due soon.

One of those who resigned, Kevan Jones, has accused the party leadership of dishonesty and warned that voters would be dismayed by the changes.

He claimed Ms Eagle, a supporter of Trident, had been moved from the defence brief against her will despite briefings that taking on the shadow culture secretary role was her "dream".

The former shadow defence spokesman said there had been "nothing straightforward or honest" about the way the reshuffle had been carried out and claimed Labour was being run in a "very top-down" manner.

Mr Jones followed Jonathan Reynolds and Stephen Doughty in walking out, citing differences with the Labour leader on key policy issues and the treatment of their colleagues.

Mr Jones said he "personally got on very well" with Mr Corbyn but believed "the people around him are advising him very badly".

"If you agree with the leader, that's fine, if you don't then there is no entering into discussions," he added.

He claimed thousands of voters who cared about defence policy would be alienated and warned that Labour faced becoming a "protest party and a talking shop".

Mr Doughty quit as shadow foreign affairs minister live on television, telling the BBC's Daily Politics programme that he had "looked at his own conscience" and was stepping down after the leader's office told "lies" about the reasons why Europe spokesman Pat McFadden had been dismissed.

Mr Reynolds said he was resigning as shadow rail minister because he could not "in good conscience endorse the world view of the Stop the War Coalition" - a group closely linked to Mr Corbyn.