LABOUR MPs yesterday called for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as anger grew over his handling of the Syrian airstrikes vote and the deep divisions exposed in the party over the issue.
The former Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart became the first Labour MP to openly suggest that the hard left leader should quit as turmoil engulfed the party.
I think his leadership is unsustainable. I think that the division at the moment is causing real problemsFiona Mactaggart
Ms Mactaggart said Mr Corbyn’s position had become “unsustainable” while another former minister John Spellar declared that the UK Labour leader’s behaviour had been “unacceptable”.
Mr Corbyn has infuriated many senior figures within the party by writing to his MPs saying he could not support David Cameron’s call for military action in Syria.
His letter was sent just a few hours after he told meeting of his Shadow Cabinet that they would come to a “collective decision” on whether or not to back airstrikes at another meeting on Monday next week. As Ms Mactaggart and Mr Spellar spoke out, Mr Corbyn was coming under intense pressure to give his MPs a free vote when the House of Commons considers David Cameron’s plan to sent the RAF into Syria to target IS.
As he cancelled a by-election campaign visit to Oldham to concentrate on sorting out the situation, Mr Corbyn was also facing a revolt within his Shadow Cabinet after several members spoke publicly of their support for bombing IS in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.
There had been suggestions that some senior Labour figures may feel they have no option other than to resign from the Shadow Cabinet.
But yesterday both Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn and Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson said they had no intention of quitting despite both defying Mr Corbyn to support airstrikes.
The chaos engulfing the party led to Ms Mactaggart suggesting that it was the Labour leader who should be resigning. Despite agreeing with Mr Corbyn in that she opposes British intervention in Syria, Ms Mactaggart said his “weak leadership” was causing damaging divisions in the party and was failing the party’s responsibility to hold the Government to account.
“He hasn’t got a strategy to lead the party from where it is to where it needs to be and the people of the country can see that,” she told the BBC. “I think it [his leadership] probably is unsustainable. The problem is that my party doesn’t have the hunger for power that the Conservative party has and the Conservative party is good at getting rid of leaders who they can see aren’t getting to lead the party to victory – my party isn’t.”
Asked whether he should stand down, she said: “I think that would be a sensible strategy because I think that the division at the moment is causing real problems.”
Another Labour MP John Spellar, a member of the defence select committee, said Mr Corbyn’s behaviour had been “unacceptable”.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “How does Jeremy Corbyn and his small group of tiny Trots in the bunker think they’ve got the unique view on it all?
“It’s absolutely right for him to put that view in the shadow cabinet. It’s right for them to discuss it.
“They thought they were going away to resume that discussion on Monday. He’s now trying to pre-empt that and whip up a storm inside the party.”
He urged shadow cabinet members to stand their ground, adding: “If anyone should resign after this incident, it should be Jeremy Corbyn.”
Even fellow leftwinger Paul Flynn admitted the party was in a “terrible mess” and that Mr Corbyn may be unable to carry on as leader.
“I’ve said to Jeremy if you end up like Michael Foot and Gordon Brown and Miliband as a liability to the party, if you are far less popular than when we are coming up to an election you have got to go. I believe that Jeremy understands that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Watson outlined his support for airstrikes saying: “I think there is an imminent terrorist threat being directed from Syria. Hilary Benn gave a very clear explanation that he thinks there is an imminent security threat to the UK and I agree with him on this.”
Mr Benn suggested that a free vote may be the only way forward.