Why I voted No in this week’s motion
A year after losing the Election, despite months of hard work and effort, the country voted to leave the European Union. Newcastle voted to stay but by the slimmest of margins.
The last few days have been some of the most difficult since I was given the honour of being your voice in Parliament. I joined the Labour Party aged 16 but I was born into the Labour Movement and benefited personally from its struggle for equality, decent housing, education, health service and all the precious fruits of decades of activism.
To oppose the elected leader of the Labour Party is not in my nature.
I am not going to set out a detailed critique of Jeremy’s leadership. Whilst Jeremy has some important qualities – honesty and integrity – I could not in good conscience say I had confidence in him as our leader. I therefore voted NO to today’s motion.
Since Monday, 86 constituents (including members) have emailed me asking me to back Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership whilst 60 constituents have emailed me asking me to vote against a motion of confidence in his leadership. I have considered all their comments. Of the activists who worked the EU referendum – doorknocked, leafletted etc. – who contacted me the majority did not back Jeremy. On the doorstep, the majority of constituents who mentioned Jeremy did so negatively. I nominated Jeremy to widen the leadership debate and have backed him since he became leader. I hope that constituents and party members alike in Newcastle recognise that I have always supported him in public and have undertaken to serve him in whatever capacity he asked of me.
But I hope they also recognise that I cannot serve my constituents – which is my primary purpose – without effective leadership at the top of the Labour Party. Having worked in business and the public sector across three continents and many different cultures, I have experience of many types of effective leadership. Jeremy’s leadership is not effective. The lack of leadership following the Brexit vote was emblematic of this.
Whilst it is true that a number of members of the PLP have behaved disgracefully, it is also true that an effective leader with an effective administration can meet such challenges. Nine months is a long, long time in politics. Being the leader of the opposition is a difficult job, but winning an election and uniting a divided country, that is the most difficult and challenging and important job of all and I am afraid that Jeremy has not shown he has the capacity for it.
For those members who feel that I and other MPs should have carried on regardless I would say that everyone, MPs included, should have the right to challenge their working conditions giving bad management and leadership and especially and most importantly in the interests of our country.
I hope that Jeremy will accept a different role in the party and the Labour family can come together in a comradely fashion behind a new leader who reflects the values of the movement and has the capacity to realise them.
All the best,
Chi Onwurah MP