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Former Labour leader Dame Margaret Beckett says Jeremy Corbyn must stand aside in emotional interview

'Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be casting a vote of no confidence in the leader of the Labour party'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 29 June 2016 12:45 BST
Dame Margaret Beckett says Jeremy Corbyn must stand aside in emotional interview

An emotional Dame Margaret Beckett, a former acting leader of the Labour party, has said that Jeremy Corbyn must stand aside as leader as she pleaded with the party to “get its act together” in order to survive.

It comes after the Labour leader shrugged off a blistering defeat in a vote of no confidence, in which Labour MPs passed the motion by a margin of 172 votes to 40.

Dame Beckett, who previously described herself as a “moron” for nominating Mr Corbyn during the leadership contest in 2015, also accused the leader’s inner-circle of acting “like a separate unit” from the party.

Her voice cracked as she said “never in my wildest dreams” did she envisage voting for a motion of no confidence in the embattled Labour leader.

“When you assume leadership you have to understand that the interests of those you lead come before your own and in those interests I'm afraid he should stand aside,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Dame Beckett added: “I would tell him this is the worst job in politics, being leader of the Labour party as leader of the Opposition is worse still. I completely understand that the pressures are enormous and can make enormous difficulties that are hard to overcome but when you assume leadership you have to understand that the interests of those you lead come before your own and in those interests I am afraid he should stand aside.

Asked whether the party was in the midst of a family trauma, Dame Beckett responded: “The Labour party is a family and that is precisely what it is.”

“I am very sorry to say that people right across the parliamentary party… in my view the bulk of the Labour party took the view it was going to be a very rocky road because Jeremy has no experience – it’s not a fault, it’s just a fact.

Corbyn's awkward conference

"He has no experience at all of the problems of leadership or of being on the frontbench, the hassle, the scrutiny, the compromises you have to negotiate with people who don’t precisely share your point of view to get to the best common ground. It was a world that was beyond him until he was elected leader."

"Part of what came out of the turbulence of the last day or so is a realisation there are people around Jeremy who are prepared to see the Labour Party split rather than for him to go, and that is anathema to everybody who thinks that we need to get rid of this Government and the damage that they are doing and the further damage that a right-wing, even more right-wing, Tory government would do,” she added.

“The Labour party has to get its act together, it has to survive.”

A spokesman for Momentum, the grass roots campaigning organisation set up to support Mr Corbyn’s leadership, told The Independent: “Jeremy Corbyn will win. We are confident that he has the support of the party, who want him to build a movement, and we are confident that he’ll win if there is a challenge.”

Mr Corbyn believes he owes it to the people who elected him to office last year to fight on despite knowing that at least three quarters of his MPs no longer think he is fit to lead them. He said in a statement after the no confidence vote was revealed: “I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.

“We are a democratic party, with a clear constitution. Our people need Labour Party members, trade unionists and MPs to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country.”

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