EXCL Jeremy Corbyn refused to accept Ian Lavery's resignation after Brexit vote rebellion

Posted On: 
3rd April 2019

Ian Lavery offered to resign from Labour's frontbench for rebelling in a key Brexit vote but was turned down, PoliticsHome has learned.

Labour chairman Ian Lavery defied Jeremy Corbyn over a second EU referendum.
Credit: 
PA Images

The party chairman broke a three-line whip to abstain on a Commons motion calling for any Brexit deal passed by MPs to be put to the public in another referendum.

It was the second time the MP for Ashington had defied Jeremy Corbyn by refusing to support the motion, which was tabled by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson.

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PoliticsHome revealed yesterday how pro-referendum Labour MPs were demanding Mr Lavery, who is a close ally of Mr Corbyn, to be sacked from the Shadow Cabinet.

Senior party sources have revealed that Mr Lavery offered his resignation to Jeremy Corbyn, but it was refused.

Significantly, the former union boss was sitting on the Labour front bench during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

A Labour spokesperson said: "The circumstances of the votes were exceptional. But it’s clear we need to find common ground in Parliament to stop either a disastrous no deal Brexit or the Prime Minister’s botched deal.

"Labour is well-placed to lead these efforts as our MPs represent constituencies that voted both Leave and Remain. It is now a matter for the leader and the whips."

But Labour MP Neil Coyle said: "MPs from across the party with divergent views on Europe have resigned for not agreeing with the whip, from Justin Madders who doesn't support a new vote, to Andy Slaughter who does.

"MPs respect colleagues who stand by their principles and do the decent thing. Those who occupy places at the top do so with certain responsibilities. To ignore them is beyond disrespectful, but sets a precedent.

"The whip only works if followed at the top. If there is no effective whip now in place, colleagues will be picking and choosing how they vote on each and every issue."

Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray said: "If this is the case Ian Lavery did the honourable and correct thing and it should have been accepted otherwise there is no sanction for breaking the whip."

Critics also pointed out that two weeks ago, five Labour frontbenchers did resign after they broke the whip to vote against another referendum.

One source said: "Jeremy's office hassled them for their resignation letters yet don’t say anything about Shadow Cabinet people. These are people who sit on the discussions and contribute to the debate, yet still get special treatment."

It has also emerged that the row sparked angry scenes at Tuesday's meeting of the Shadow Cabinet.

Diane Abbott, Nia Griffith and Angela Rayner all made clear their unhappiness at Mr Lavery, as well as shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett, breaking the Labour whip.