Labour Center Revolts Amid Rumors of Split

Jeremy Corbyn loses half his shadow cabinet amid rumors that parliamentarians are considering a Labour split.

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

The outcome of Thursday’s referendum, in which Britain voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the European Union, has thrown not just the country into confusion but the opposition Labour Party as well.

Hours after the results became clear there were calls for Jeremy Corbyn to face a vote of no-confidence.

Soon after, Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, was sacked after telling Corbyn he had lost confidence in his ability to lead the party.

As things stand, another 23 shadow cabinet members and high-ranking officials have resigned, including Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary; Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary; Ian Murray, the shadow secretary for Scotland; Lucy Powell, the shadow education secretary; and Charles Falconer, former lord chancellor and shadow justice secretary.

New party in the making?

There is now a rumor going around that alongside the mounting pressure on Corbyn to resign, the broad church of Labour could be on the verge of splitting.

Most of the resignations have come from those in Labour who occupy the center ground. They have all been replaced by Corbyn with more likeminded parliamentarians who are further to the left. What the rumor suggests is that these resignations are a prelude to the formation of a new center-left party.

Such a party would include rump Liberal Democrats, such as Vince Cable.

Seismic shift

Whether or not such a party is formed, it is clear the EU referendum has triggered a seismic shift in British politics, possibly on the scale of when Labour replaced the Liberals as the main opposition to the Conservatives.

If the rumor does turn out to be true, the new party could be a home for the 48 percent who voted to “remain” and are likely to be moderate centrists.

For now, all we can do is speculate as the roll call of Labour resignations continues.

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