Councillors say time to go but Corbyn stays defiant

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

Wigan Labour councillors have backed a campaign calling for leader Jeremy Corbyn to “make way for the new leadership”.

The move follows days of turmoil for the party after a huge majority of MPs backed a vote of no confidence which was in turn supported by council leader Lord Smith.

A letter addressed to Labour headquarters on behalf of Labour councillors across the country claims he is “unable to command the confidence of the whole party”.

It praises the embattled leader as “an honourable man” but says now is the time for fresh leadership.

To date the letter has been signed by 10 out of Wigan borough’s 65 Labour councillors although it is not known whether the majority still plan to sign it or have chosen not to as a show of support for their party leader.

It reads: “As Labour councillors we support the recent call from colleagues for new leadership at the top of our party.

“Jeremy Corbyn is an honourable man with a record of public service stretching back more than four decades, not least in local government.

“We are drawn from a number of traditions within our movement, including those who voted for Jeremy last year. It has now become clear, however, that he is unable to command the confidence of the whole party nor of many traditional Labour supporters we speak with on the doorstep.

“Our country is facing a crisis – and the neighbourhoods we represent are on the front line. We urge Jeremy Corbyn to make way for the new leadership that our communities so desperately need.”

According to party website Labour List, those to have signed it include Couns Bill Clarke, Christine Roberts, Jeanette Prescott, Keir Stitt, Lord Smith, Nigel Ash, Paul Kenny, Paul Prescott, Susan Greensmith and Stephen Hellier.

Mr Corbyn is understood to be prepared to re-stand in a leadership election against any challengers and commands a significant level of grass-roots support.

He called on the party to “unite” after the “tumultuous” week that had followed the EU referendum.

“The last year, with all its highs and lows, has left me with every confidence that Labour has the potential to be a powerful and transformatory movement capable of winning the next general election, whenever that comes.”

He added: “But my confidence and optimism are not naive.

“We all know that despite the overwhelming mandate I was given by Labour Party members and supporters last year, we have all had a torrid few days, well, at least I have.”

Wigan and Makerfield MPs Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Fovargue have each resigned from Mr Corbyn’s front-bench citing concerns with his leadership although Leigh MP Andy Burnham remains as shadow home secretary.

Wigan residents took to social media to voice support for Mr Corbyn. Melanie McCarthy said: “No matter what happens with in the coming days or weeks the fact that members voted for Jeremy Corbyn and he’s standing by his principles to represent the members and public proves the majority of Labour MPs are totally out of touch.”