Lilian Greenwood: Why I quit 'incompetent' Jeremy Corbyn's frontbench

Posted On: 
18th July 2016

A former Shadow Cabinet member has revealed she resigned her post because she was fed up with Jeremy Corbyn's "incompetent" leadership of the Labour party.

Lilian Greenwood has revealed why she stood down from the Shadow Cabinet
PA Images

Lilian Greenwood, who served as Shadow Transport Secretary, said she was repeatedly "undermined" by her boss throughout her nine months in her role.

She lifted the lid on life in Mr Corbyn's top team in a speech to members of her Nottingham South constituency Labour party.

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Ms Greenwood resigned her position on 26 June, the same day that a number of other Shadow Cabinet members announced that they were standing down following the sacking of Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn.

She said: "Heidi Alexander, one of my closest friends in the Shadow Cabinet, one of the best and most talented and loyal colleagues I know, had resigned. 

"So I rang Brian, my agent, and my adviser, Laurence, to tell them. I wrote my resignation letter and I rang Jeremy to explain. And I texted asking him to call me. And I rang Katy Clark in his office and asked her to ask him to ring me.

"After an hour or so he did ring me. And we had an amicable discussion and I explained that I has lost confidence in him. He didn't even ask me why. Or what was wrong, or how he could fix it. 

"I wasn't part of any coup. I didn't plan it. I didn't co-ordinate the timing of my resignation with anyone else. I just knew that I could not go on. Things were, and are, falling apart."

Ms Greenwood had earlier highlighted a number of occasions when she became exasperated by Mr Corbyn's style of leadership.

She said she was stunned when he began a high-profile reshuffle on 4 January, the same day she launched the party's campaign against rail faire hikes.

"I respect completely Jeremy’s right to reshuffle his top team," she said. "But why then? It was unnecessary and it was incompetent. 

"It let me down, it let my staff down but most of all it let down the Labour campaigners and trade union members, people like you, who had given up their time to go out campaigning for us that morning."

Ms Greenwood said she was also "undermined" when Mr Corbyn told his local newspaper that Labour could drop its support for HS2 without telling her.

Explosively, she also claimed that Mr Corbyn had "deliberately sabotaged" the party's agreed line on EU rules which could block Labour's plan to renationalise the railways.

"The lines were circulated to all frontbenchers, to all MPs, to ensure they knew what our policy was and how to deal with difficult questions," she said. 

"But Jeremy went on Sky News and took a completely different, eurosceptic line. Not what we'd agreed. With the potential to make us look divided. It undermined me, my staff and his staff. I wondered why I was bothering to put in the hard work.

"You’ve all heard stories about pro-European speeches being downgraded, events, being cancelled, and Jeremy and his staff privately subscribing to eurosceptic views.

"And I felt that I was watching my leader deliberately sabotage the campaign on an issue on which he and I had a personal agreement."

Ms Greenwood added: "I remain proud of our policies on transport, especially rail. And Jeremy is right to set out an alternative to the economics of austerity, to focus on affordable housing, to defending a public NHS and to tackling poverty and inequality.

"But through my own personal direct experience I know that Jeremy operates in a way that means progress towards these goals is impossible. He is not a team player let alone a team leader.

"Jeremy has a new Shadow Cabinet but it’s clear to me that he doesn’t understand collective responsibility and that he can't lead a team, so I'm afraid the same problems will eventually emerge in the new front bench. This is not about policy or ideology, it is about competence."

Ms Greenwood published the speech on her website just a day after fellow Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire revealed she had been appointed to and removed from a frontbench post while receiving cancer treatment and without being told by Mr Corbyn.

The leader's office blamed "miscommunication" for the mix-up.