EU referendum: Jeremy Corbyn vows to fight for leadership and reshape cabinet

Source: BBC

Jeremy Corbyn will stand in any new leadership election, and reshape his shadow cabinet over the next 24 hours, the Labour leader has said.

He urged people “to come together to heal the divisions” after the EU vote.

A string of Labour shadow cabinet members have quit, with more walkouts expected, in protest at Mr Corbyn’s leadership over the EU referendum.

Shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant was the latest to resign, saying Labour needed “someone new to unite” it.

‘Inequality’

Mr Corbyn added: “We have to respect the decision that has been made, hold the government to democratic account over its response, and ensure that working people don’t pay the price of exit.

“Neither wing of the Tory government has an exit plan. Labour will now ensure that our reform agenda is at the heart of the negotiations that lie ahead. That includes the freedom to shape our economy for the future and the necessity of protecting social and employment rights.

“One clear message from last Thursday’s vote is that millions of people feel shut out of a political and economic system that has let them down and scarred our country with grotesque levels of inequality.”

His comments come after shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was sacked after telling Mr Corbyn he had lost confidence in him.

Earlier, a party spokesman said Mr Corbyn – who faces a no confidence vote over a “lacklustre” EU campaign – “won’t be resigning”.

The spokesman added that Mr Corbyn “is the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow cabinet members Andy Burnham, Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry have given Mr Corbyn their support despite the resignations.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has said he is “deeply disappointed” that Mr Benn had been sacked and “equally saddened” by the shadow cabinet resignations.

He said his focus was to “hold the Labour Party together in very turbulent times” and that he would meet Mr Corbyn on Monday to discuss the “way forward”.

Secret ballot

The series of shadow cabinet walkouts began on Sunday morning, hours after Mr Benn was sacked by the Labour leader.

Those resigning are:

  • Lord Falconer, shadow justice secretary
  • Chris Bryant, Shadow leader of the House of Commons
  • Heidi Alexander, shadow health secretary
  • Lucy Powell, shadow education secretary
  • Vernon Coaker, shadow Northern Ireland secretary
  • Ian Murray, shadow Scottish secretary – and Labour’s only MP in Scotland
  • Kerry McCarthy, shadow environment secretary
  • Seema Malhotra, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury
  • Lillian Greenwood, shadow transport secretary
  • Gloria de Piero, shadow minister for young people and voter registration

Karl Turner, the shadow attorney general, also resigned. His is not a shadow cabinet post, but he attends meetings.

The Labour Party campaigned for Remain during the referendum, which saw the UK voting to leave the EU by 52% to 48% on Thursday.

But Mr Corbyn – who has been a long-standing critic of the EU and who is regarded as the most Eurosceptic Labour leader in years – has been accused by some in his party of not making the case for the EU forcefully enough.

As a result, a motion of no confidence against Mr Corbyn has been submitted by Labour MPs Dame Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey – and it is expected to be considered at the next meeting of Labour MPs on Monday. A secret ballot could be held the following day.

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