NI Labour Party officially backs Corbyn as leader

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership received overwhelming backing during a “milestone” meeting of the Northern Irish wing of the Labour Party at the weekend.

A meeting of the general membership of the party comfortably endorsed the current Labour helmsman by a margin of 107 votes at the Wellington Park Hotel on Saturday morning.

In April 2016, it was announced that members of the Labour Party based in the Province would be registering an official Northern Irish version of the party, with a view to fighting elections.

They did so in defiance of a long-standing ban upon competing in elections, imposed by the England-based party leadership – a ban which Mr Corbyn himself had refused to overturn.

Despite the fact that the Northern Irish party would not have been allowed to come into being at all if Mr Corbyn’s wishes had been respected, he received 121 votes backing his current leadership at Saturday’s meeting of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

By contrast Mr Corbyn’s challenger for the leadership, Owen Smith, received 14 votes.

Meanwhile, 33 people voted in favour of the CLP remaining neutral.

The CLP essentially acts as a ruling group for the party in the Province, and although the vote is an official endorsement of Mr Corbyn, it is not binding; this means the 3,000-or-so members of the party in Northern Ireland will still be able to vote as they wish when the leadership ballot gets underway late next month.

Anna McAleavy, chairwoman of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, said in a statement on Sunday: “The debate yesterday morning was both frank and friendly.

“When it came to a vote the figures speak for themselves.”

She added: “Yesterday’s meeting marked a milestone in the development of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, and I am proud that the debate was conducted in such a collegiate atmosphere.”

The move to set up a new official Northern Irish Labour party in April meant that the Labour members were risking expulsion from the overall UK-wide Labour fraternity.

In all, the eight Northern Irish Labour candidates in May’s Assembly election received a total of 1,577 first preference votes – fewer than one vote per party supporter in the Province.