WriteYou Exclusive - the below letter was sent by Lucy Powell MP to members in her Manchester Central Constituency
I wanted to write to you following the difficult and unprecedented events in the Labour Party this week and explain my position.
The first thing to say is that we all, whatever our views, agree that both the timing and the scale of this week’s events have not been good and have caused damage to us as a Party and let the Tories off the hook. But we are now where we are and the important issue is how we move forward.
Until Sunday, I was a committed and energetic member of Jeremy’s Shadow Cabinet. When Jeremy was elected I fully supported him. I have served as his Shadow Education Secretary since September with rigour and determination, working closely with Jeremy and supporters from across our party to oppose the Government’s terrible education policies- making them abandon forced academisation of our schools and highlighting the teacher shortage crisis they have created amongst other issues. Throughout this time I regularly took to the airwaves in defence and support of Jeremy and his leadership.
However, in the context of huge concern post-Brexit last Thursday about what the result meant for the country, for our Party and whether we could have done more in the campaign itself, I was astonished that Jeremy decided to sack his Shadow Foreign Secretary on Saturday night. This was the final straw for me.
The scale of the collapse in confidence in Jeremy amongst the Parliamentary Labour Party, members and voters has been significant and now makes his position untenable. Even longstanding, close political allies of Jeremy on the Left of the Party have said and done the same. I know that there has been some concern by members about the process but it is clear in the spirit of the Labour Party’s constitution that a leader must be nominated by and maintain the support of, Labour MP’s.
I have been contacted by lots of members over the week since the disappointment of the EU referendum with their views on the future of the Labour Party. I have also received many messages from Labour voters in the constituency. The majority of those who have contacted me agree with me that Jeremy should now stand aside.
I would hope that he will do this in a way that ensures his legacy can be built upon and developed. I share many of Jeremy’s views and I think the contest last summer and his victory gave the Labour Party the jolt that we needed to reconnect us with our core values, to be confident in setting out an alternative approach to the economy and took us into a new era where we don’t ape the Tories but set out a clear Labour vision for the country.
However, whilst I have found Jeremy to be a decent and kind man, I do not think that he has shown the skills or qualities to be an effective leader. Jeremy is now unable to command the confidence of the Shadow Cabinet, the Parliamentary Labour Party and most importantly, the country and I think that his position is untenable.
Our party faces an existential threat- the task in front of us all is immense and we need an effective leader. We have over many years, lost the support of our traditional communities. Whilst I don’t blame Jeremy personally for that, I do not believe that he understands their concerns sufficiently to re-engage with these communities. The referendum catalysed this disconnect.
The people we represent need a strong Labour Party and a change of leadership is vital if we are to effectively challenge a Tory Party which is lurching ever rightwards. To fail to address this would be ignoring our responsibilities to them.
A General Election in the next year is much more likely than it was, and with the turmoil the country faces and the challenges we face with many of our communities voting Leave, we need to quickly unite and re-group around a new leader. I sincerely hope this can happen as quickly as possible.
We owe it to our supporters, and to the country, to ensure we are in a position to win an election. In Manchester in particular, one of the areas which has been hit the hardest by Tory cuts, I represent thousands of vulnerable people who desperately need a strong opposition capable of bringing an end to Tory rule. And we can only do this with a capable leader. That’s why I and so many of my colleagues have reached what has been an incredibly difficult decision to make.
I know that there are be a wide range of opinions on this and I hope you can understand mine.
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