A senior opposition MP has criticised Labour colleagues in Wigan for abandoning leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rebecca Long-Bailey told voters at a meeting arranged by Wigan Trades Council to show support for Mr Corbyn to remain as party chief and that she had hoped Labour could avoid another leadership election.
Both the Wigan and Makerfield MPs Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Fovargue are now backing rival candidate Owen Smith after resigning from Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet although he retains widespread support from party members.
Ms Long-Bailey told the Wigan Evening Post after the meeting: “I did personally feel that it was important for MPs to respect the wishes of the Labour Party membership although I do know that many MPs agonised over their decisions.
“It is important to note that the position regarding individual MPs was extremely complex, many had varying reasons as to why they had participated in the vote of no confidence. I had personally hoped that any particular issues that individuals had could be dealt with through discussion but sadly a leadership contest was triggered.”
She went on to commend the borough’s MPs for their hard work and said she was sure they would rally round whoever wins the contest, voting for which is currently under way.
Ms Nandy quit Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in June saying the party had ignored “too many genuine concerns of traditional supporters over low pay, unemployment and immigration.” And in her resignation letter, Ms Fovargue said: “In this volatile period for politics it is essential that the leader of the Labour Party can connect with all areas of the country, I do not believe that this can be achieved under your leadership.”
Leigh MP Andy Burnham, one of the few members of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet who did not resign after the Brexit vote which sparked the leadership challenge, has remained neutral - but he is expected to leave Westminster after being nominated as the party’s candidate to stand for Greater Manchester Mayor. A number of Wigan Labour councillors have also come out publicly in favour of the challenger.
Ms Long-Bailey told the 90-strong audience at the Old Courts in Crawford Street that she was proud to be part of the Labour Party and to serve in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.
She welcomed the huge number of people who had joined the party since Mr Corbyn’s election saying that it was now a different party: one with “fresh ideas” and one that “had all the energy and policies necessary to tackle the shocking levels of poverty and insecurity in the North West.”
Ian Hodson, the National President of the Bakers’ Union told the Wigan meeting that it wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn who was being supported. He said: “It is the principles, values and politics that he stood for. Workers have been abandoned by the political elites in our country for far too long.
“We need to take back our party to a time when it genuinely represented the needs and aspirations of working class people. We need to eradicate the ideas of hopelessness, and reinstate the idea of a better life for all.”
The result will be announced on September 24. Polls predict a Corbyn win.