29 Labour party councillors in Salford have given their official backing to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a signed statement.
Mr Corbyn faced a backbench coup in the wake of Brexit but has still refused to quit despite a mass exodus of MPs from his Shadow Cabinet and a motion of no confidence against him.
Party infighting in the wake of the shock ‘leave’ result of the EU Referendum on 23 June gave way to an attempted backbench coup designed to force their leader to resign.
But councillors in Salford today issued a clear response that they’re staying in his corner.
And party insiders say that Mr Corbyn still has a clear mandate to lead Labour, having only taken up the job as Leader of the Opposition nine months ago, and with the support of 60 per cent of Labour members.
The list of his official Salford supporters includes Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, Deputy City Mayors Councillor Paula Boshell and Councillor John Merry, heads of housing and envirnoment, Councillor Paul Longshaw and Councillor David Lancaster, along with Lead Members for finance, children and young people’s services, industrial relations and adult services, Councillors Bill Hinds, Lisa Stone, John Ferguson and Tracy Kelly. The only name in Councillor Dennett’s cabinet not on the list is the head of planning, Councillor Derek Antrobus.
Further up the political chain, Labour is split locally.
Worsley and Eccles South Barbara Keeley MP resigned her position as Shadow Minister for Older People, Social Care and Carers, saying: “I am deeply concerned that the current state of the party means we will not be able to mount an effective frontbench Opposition to the Tories in Parliament in future.”
Graham Stringer MP – who predicted a post-Brexit coup as a ‘fantastically stupid idea’ for Labour – has stayed out of it so far, and one of Corbyn’s closest allies, Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey stepped in as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Is this support too little, too late?
Jeremy Corbyn is expected to announce his final Shadow Cabinet line-up later today.
He does not appear to have any intention to step down, and Labour members across the country still seem to have him as their man to lead the party forward.
The statement from councillors in Salford reads: “As elected Labour councillors and the City Mayor in Salford, we the undersigned reject what appears to be an organised coup, and the recent moves from Parliamentary Labour Party members to undermine the leadership of the party through mass resignation.
“Despite a hostile media, biased political commentary and disloyalty within the ranks, the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership has consistently managed to increase its support.
“We have risen in the polls, now tying neck and neck with the Tories. We have won every by-election. In the last council elections, we were the biggest party and won 4 city-mayoral elections, including here in Salford.
“Jeremy Corbyn has the mandate of the members to lead our party. He was elected with 60% of the vote, and his approval ratings amongst members have increased. Over 200,000 new members have joined our party since he became leader, and tens of thousands more have joined in the past few days.
“In light of this, we believe that the recent actions of many of our MPs, seemingly involved in an organised coup, are reckless and damaging. At a time when the Conservative government is ripping itself to shreds over the outcome of the referendum, Labour MPs should be siding together to take the Labour message out to our communities and fight the horrific consequences of Tory austerity.
“Furthermore, at this time we think it is unhelpful for party members to join in a continued public attack on our leadership; party governance exists to facilitate discussion and debate but is ostensibly being circumvented in favour of unaccountable public attacks on our democratically elected leadership. This will only serve to destabilise the party and damage our electoral chances even more.
“As such, we entirely reject the rationale behind the decision to force a leadership coup, and call for unity within the party during this turbulent period. In particular we welcome the initiative of major trade union leaders to bring about a settlement.
“Paul Dennett, John Merry, Paula Boshell, John Ferguson, Bill Hinds, Lisa Stone, Paul Longshaw, Tracy Kelly, John Walsh, Adrian Brocklehurst, Barry Warner, Brendan Ryan, Christine Hudson, Jim Dawson, Jim King, Joe Murphy, John Warmisham, Kate Lewis, Samantha Bellamy, Barbara Bentham, Tanya Burc, Gina Reynolds, David Lancaster, Bernard Lea, Jane Hamilton, Jim Hunt, Rob Sharpe, Collette Weir, Stephen Coen.”
Last week eight Labour councillors signed an open letter calling on Jeremy Corbyn to resign: Heather Fletcher, Stephen Hesling, Roger Jones, Charlie McIntyre, Margaret Morris and Paul Wilson.
Councillors Stephen Coen and Howard Balkind also reportedly signed but are now understood to have switched their allegiance back to Mr Corbyn.
Edit: As pointed out in the comments below, Councillor Stephen Coen has commented that his inclusion on this list was a ‘glitch’.
The Labour leader broke his media silence recently by addressing the nation on his Youtube channel, where he urged voters to “Come together and beat the Tories”.
However, it is clear that while Corbyn has strong grassroots support not everyone believes he’s the right man to take Labour into a strong position in a post-Brexit world.
According to Labour List, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tom Watson MP is to meet union leaders to push for a deal which would see Mr Corbyn stand down, telling the Parliamentary Labour Party that the support of members was not enough for him to remain in place, without the support of the vast majority of his MPs.
A challenge of the party’s leadership cannot be far away, with Angela Eagle waiting in the wings and word that Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith may also stand.
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that 36 Salford councillors had backed Jeremy Corbyn. This was amended to 29, not because of a political shift, but because we failed to count up correctly in the first place.)