Labour’s former shadow business secretary Clive Lewis has dismissed claims he sounded out colleagues on launching a possible leadership bid to topple Jeremy Corbyn as “fantasy politics”.
Lewis was the most high-profile rebel to quit the shadow cabinet in order to vote against triggering Article 50 last Wednesday.
The move sparked talk that the Norwich South MP was considering a leadership run, but yesterday he rejected such claims.
“There has been speculation about that, and it is just that. You can quote me on this. It is total bollocks,” he told his local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press.
He said talk of a bid to topple Corbyn was part of a “game of fantasy politics in Westminster”.
Lewis added he would be “working hard to support the leadership and the party from the back benches”.
The comments came as it emerged that frontbench rebels who defied Corbyn over the Brexit bill but did not resign will not get the sack. Instead, they will receive a written warning.
The reprimand emerged after Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown met Corbyn to decide what disciplinary action would follow after 52 MPs ignored the leader’s orders and voted against triggering Article 50.
The light-touch reaction was put down to the “extraordinary circumstances” of the referendum aftermath, according to Labour sources.
Rebels will receive a written warning and will be expected not to defy a three-line whip again.
Labour sources said Corbyn believes it will “not be viable” for someone to remain in the shadow cabinet if they ignore another three-line whip.Corbyn is clear that this is the “final warning” to Brexit rebels on the issue, the source said.
The Labour leader was forced to reshuffle his top team after a number of members quit ahead of voting against triggering Article 50.
However, 11 shadow ministers and three whips remained in their posts despite defying the leader’s command.
A large swathe of the parliamentary party ignored Corbyn’s orders and tried to stop the Brexit bill passing last Wednesday.
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was passed by 494 votes to 122 without any amendments.
The 11 frontbenchers who voted against the bill in its final Commons stage without quitting their jobs were Rosena Allin-Khan, Kevin Brennan, Lyn Brown, Ruth Cadbury, Rupa Huq, Chi Onwurah, Stephen Pound, Andy Slaughter, Catherine West, Alan Whitehead and Daniel Zeichner. The whips were Thangam Debbonaire, Vicky Foxcroft and Jeff Smith.