Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Lambeth South/Croydon North [delete to taste] waited until this morning before joining the exodus of right wingers from the Labour Party’s shadow cabinet, issuing a letter announcing that he is resigning from his junior position in the local government team, he says because of concerns about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
But members of his own constituency party say that Reed’s letter is at best is disingenuous, and at worst includes an outright lie.
“We had the Croydon North Constituency Labour Party annual meeting on Friday night, when members asked Reed about the threats against the leader,” said one activist who was present. “He refused to discuss the matter, saying that there was a meeting at Westminster on Monday and he would talk about it with parliamentary colleagues there.”
In his resignation letter, Reed has written that he made his decision, “After consulting my local constituency party…”
The CLP meeting was well-attended by members, including some Croydon councillors. Those who were there have told Inside Croydon, “He certainly didn’t discuss the party leadership with us.
“The CLP annual meeting would seem to be the ideal place for the MP to discuss such an issue with members. Last year, it was where Croydon North members voted democratically to support Jeremy Corbyn’s nomination for the leadership. Yet this year, Reed did not want to discuss the matter with party members.”
The Blairites’ attempted coup against Corbyn gathered pace shortly after 1am yesterday. A phone call had taken place between Hilary Benn and his party leader, in which the younger brother of a hereditary earl tried to persuade the man elected by 60 per cent of their party’s membership to step down from his elected position.
Corbyn duly sacked his shadow foreign secretary.
Since Benn’s dismissal, more than a dozen members of the shadow cabinet, mostly but not all from the right wing of the party, have released resignation letters. The resignations come ostensibly over disquiet at Corbyn’s performance on behalf of the Remain campaign during the EU Referendum.
Some observers point out, however, that the long-awaited Chilcot Report into the Iraq War is due for publication in a fortnight. Corbyn is expected to use the report to call for his predecessor as Labour leader, former Prime Minister Tony Bliar, to stand trial for war crimes. So this coup is the Blairites’ last chance to stop Corbyn from doing that as leader of the Labour Party.
Reed’s resignation letter was released just after 8.30am, in time to catch the morning bulletins on the Today programme. Reed is a vice-chair of Progress, the very well-funded party-within-the-party.
Over the weekend, Reed’s political chums, such as his former Lambeth Labour colleague Catriona Ogilvy and Ross Haynes, an ex-Westminster staffer, both called for Corbyn to resign as leader.
Reed, meanwhile, kept an unusually low profile, except for saying on Twitter that “even an MP is allowed a Saturday night off”. Of course, it may be that he was busy with other things, such as the anti-Corbyn plot.
Reed refused to answer questions in the public domain from this website asking whether he would be supporting his party leader.
Reed finally clarified his position in his letter this morning. There was never any real doubt.
“A majority of Labour supporters in large parts of the north and midlands [sic] voted to leave the EU because their connection with our party has broken. We are losing touch with them, a process that has been under way for some time but has speeded up under your leadership,” said the in-touch Reed, who lives in a £1 million house in Surrey’s leafy Shirley Hills.
“There is now a strong possibility of a General Election this Autumn, and I am convinced that Labour faces electoral annihilation from which we may not recover for a generation if you lead us into it.”
Reed’s stance has angered Labour members and supporters in Croydon.
“Reed has seriously let down thousands of Labour Party members in Croydon and across the country who support Jeremy Corbyn and believe in democracy in the party,” one told Inside Croydon today.
“It’s clear there’s been a conspiracy for some months between 30 or so right-wing Labour MPs, based around Progress, to force Jeremy Corbyn out. They tried to do it on the issue of anti-semitism, but failed. They are now using the pretext of the Brexit vote.
“The Right know that they would never win against Corbyn in an election by members of the party, hence they resort to these underhand tactics.”
Another member who was at the Croydon North meeting said, “He didn’t consult the members on Friday. He answered a couple of questions from the floor; on the leadership he just said that he would consult with his parliamentary colleagues before making up his mind today.
“Has he forgotten that Croydon North members nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership?” they said.
Another said, “Several members shouted at Reed, saying that they supported Jeremy.
“One said that they had joined the party because of Corbyn. How can he say now that he’s consulted us?”
- Still Croydon’s only independent news source, and based in the heart of the borough: 1.97 million page views 2013-2015
- Inside Croydon: Named among best regional media campaigns, 2014
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event to publicise, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org