Labour frontbencher quits after defying party whip to vote against second referendum

Posted On: 
14th March 2019

A Labour frontbencher has quit her post after voting against calls for a second EU referendum.

Ruth Smeeth has quit the Labour frontbench.
PA Images

Ruth Smeeth, who was a parliamentary aide to Tom Watson, said she had "a duty to support the will of my constituents".

Four other shadow ministers - Justin Madders, Stephanie Peacock, Emma Lewell-Buck and Yvonne Fovargue - also ignored the Labour leadership's orders to abstain on an amendment calling for Brexit to be delayed to allow a so-called "people's vote" to take place.

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It was unclear whether party bosses will take any disciplinary action against them for breaking the rule on collective responsibility.

They were among a total of 41 Labour MPs who broke the whip to either vote for or against the second referendum amendment.

In a statement, Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove MP Ms Smeeth said: "I've resigned from Labour's front bench this evening in order to vote against a second referendum.

"This was a difficult decision but I have a duty to support the will of my constituents. We need to leave, and leave with a deal that works for the Potteries."

Deputy leader Mr Watson said: "Ruth is as good a colleague and friend as I could wish for. She is a leading young light in our party and has served on the front bench with distinction. I wish her well and respect her decision."

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment to block the Prime Minister’s deal coming back for a third try in the House and look for another approach, was also defeated by six votes.

Hilary Benn’s bid to allow MPs to take control of the Commons and host a series of indicative votes was also struck down by two votes.

For the first time this week the Government claimed a win with its unchanged motion to extend Article 50 until 30 June if its deal is not passed by the end of March, got the greenlight by 412 to 202 votes.