A meltdown is taking place in the UK’s Labour party. Eleven shadow cabinet members have quit their positions, another was fired, and at least 20 resignations are still expected. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who as of Sunday (June 26) said he would not resign, is facing rising anger over his lackluster performance in the campaign against Brexit.
The upheaval started after Corbyn fired his shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, on Sunday, based on reports that Benn had been plotting to force Corbyn’s resignation. Since then, nearly a dozen key members of the shadow cabinet—Labour’s voice in government policies—have announced their resignations.
Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander went first, posting her resignation letter on Twitter.
She was swiftly followed by other MPs, with reports of more resignations ahead.
Corbyn is under fire for his weak performance campaigning against Brexit, as well as his reaction to the vote: On Friday he demanded that Britain start negotiating the terms of its EU exit immediately, and then later reversed his position. “I did all I could,” Corbyn offered the heckling crowd at a gay pride march in London on Saturday.
“Every speech Jeremy has made since the result has made this worse,” one shadow cabinet minister told The Times of London (paywall.)
Given the UK’s difficult road ahead, it’s a bad time for the opposition party to be in shambles. Several Labour MPs are hoping to replace Corbyn quickly, in part because Cameron’s resignation could lead to a snap general election. On BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Benn said there’s “no confidence” that Labour can win a general election with Corbyn at the helm. “He’s a good and decent man, but he is not a leader,” he said.
So far, Corbyn is digging his heels in. A spokesman confirmed on Sunday that he’s staying in office, and Huffington Post UK’s Paul Waugh said sources tell him Corbyn will try to appoint a new shadow cabinet as a show of defiance.
Even if Corbyn doesn’t resign, he may still be pushed out. MPs are expected to discuss a motion of no confidence at a parliamentary meeting Monday, and could vote on the proposal the following day. Even if the no-confidence motion does not pass, dissatisfied MPs say they still have the 50 names needed to support a challenging MP and trigger a leadership contest.