Labour Party’s Northern Ireland branch backs Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured at Thiepval for the Somme commemoration
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured at Thiepval for the Somme commemoration

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland has come out strongly to support Jeremy Corbyn and condemn attempts by Labour MPs to force the Labour leader’s resignation.

Since the EU referendum, Mr Corbyn has been under intense and intensifying pressure to resign, partly due to allegations by internal opponents that he was unenthusiastic in his support for a Remain vote.

On Tuesday, an extraordinary meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party saw 80 per cent of Labour MPs state that they had no confidence in the veteran left-winger’s leadership.

However, Mr Corbyn never had the support of a majority of MPs, having been elected under a new voting system in which power shifted to Labour’s members and ‘registered supporters’.

He appears to retain considerable support among those grass roots party members and supporters.

On Friday the Labour Party in Northern Ireland released a statement which it agreed at an executive meeting on Thursday night.

The statement was passed overwhelmingly at the executive meeting, with 10 votes in favour and just two abstentions.

The move comes despite strains between the party in Northern Ireland and its London leadership.

Mr Corbyn has refused to overturn the party’s ban on standing candidates in Northern Ireland elections, leading to a group of Labour rebels registering their own Labour party and contesting May’s Assembly election, something which saw the party hierarchy threaten them with disciplinary action.

The Northern Ireland Labour Party statement said: “At an uncertain time like this for the country, the Executive Committee of Labour Party in Northern Ireland does not believe that it makes sense for a party in opposition to plunge itself into a civil war.

“It is for our members to decide who leads our party and 10 months ago they gave Jeremy Corbyn a resounding mandate.

“The general secretaries of 10 of Britain’s largest trade unions have signed a joint statement giving their continued support to Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

“We regret that Vernon Coaker, shadow Secretary of State for NI, has resigned as he worked closely with LPNI and in the interests of the people of NI.

“We would however like to welcome Dave Anderson as the new shadow Secretary of State. We look forward to both meeting him and working with him.”

The Labour Party in NI said that it stood by the statement by Mr Corbyn earlier this week that “we need to come together to heal the divisions exposed by the [referendum] vote.

“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.”

There are now around 1,800 Labour members and registered supporters in Northern Ireland who would be eligible to vote if a challenger emerges to Mr Corbyn and there is a leadership contest.