Hartlepool’s grassroots Labour members feel betrayed by the revolt against Jeremy Corbyn, says a local party chief.
Former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith yesterday joined Angela Eagle in seeking to unseat the veteran left-winger, declaring he would be a “radical and credible” leader who could take Labour back into power.
But Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party president Edwin Jeffries said his members would be backing the leader.
“Everybody I talk to is absolutely appalled at the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party,” he said.
“They feel it has betrayed the members who elected Jeremy Corbyn.
“We nominated Jeremy Corbyn last time and we will continue to support Jeremy Corbyn through the election process.”
Everybody I talk to is absolutely appalled at the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party. They feel it has betrayed the members who elected Jeremy Corbyn.Edwin Jeffries
Owen Smith launched his bid the day after Mr Corbyn secured his place on the ballot paper for a contest expected to stretch through the summer, after the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) decalred that only challengers needed to collect 51 nominations from MPs.
The Pontypridd MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was the right decision to ensure that Mr Corbyn can take part in the contest.
He accused some on the right of the party of acting in a way which could “split” Labour.
He said: “I will stand in this election and I will do the decent thing and fight Jeremy Corbyn on the issues, just as he will do with me, and at the end of that I will stand behind whoever the leader is.
“But I hope and I expect it will be me.”
Mr Smith’s announcement came amid reports the NEC had suspended all local Constituency Labour Party meetings until the end of the leadership campaign following complaints of harassment and intimidation.
But shadow chancellor John McDonnell insisted that he expected an “amicable” contest which would focus on policies.
He denounced incidents such as the brick thrown through Ms Eagle’s constituency office window as “scandalous”, but denied they were committed by Corbyn supporters.
Mr McDonnell said Labour members would have been “distressed” if Mr Corbyn was blocked from taking part in the election, adding: “This will be a democratic decision. “Last year’s contest was amicable and I think it will be the same this time. “Whoever emerges as leader, we have got to respect the decision of our members and unite behind them.”
Mr Smith told Today he decided to stand after a “dramatic collapse of faith and confidence in Jeremy” over “the last couple of weeks”.