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British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faces 'coup' after Brexit

Ten shadow cabinet ministers have resigned, saying they no longer have confidence in Corbyn's ability to lead the party in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU.
Photo by Will Oliver/EPA

There's a "coup" underway in Britain's Labour party. Ten shadow ministers resigned from their cabinet positions on Sunday in a bid to topple the party's current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, saying they no longer have confidence in his ability to lead the party in the wake of the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union.

The resignations came after Corbyn sacked Hilary Benn, Labour's foreign policy chief, for losing confidence in his leadership.


Benn and others have accused Corbyn of a leading a lackluster campaign to stay in the EU. "In a phone call to Jeremy I told him I had lost confidence in his ability to lead the party and he dismissed me," Benn told the BBC.

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So far, here are the ministers who have quit:

-Heidi Alexander, the shadow health Secretary. Alexander wrote in her resignation letter: "I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding, and I believe if we are to form the next Government, a change in leadership is essential."

-Lucy Powell, Education spokesperson. "I have come to know you and found you to be a decent, principled and kind colleague," Powell wrote in her resignation letter. "However, it is increasingly clear that your position is untenable and that you are unable to command the support of the Shadow Cabinet… and more importantly, the country."

-Kerry McCarthy, environment and rural affairs spokesperson. "Although I do not doubt your personal commitment to your long-held principles," McCarthy wrote, "I believe a new leader is needed to take on the challenges ahead."

-Ian Murray, the Scottish secretary, wrote that strong leadership in the opposition was needed to secure the best possible deal for Scotland and the United Kingdom in future negotiations on the EU. "We can only do that under a new leadership," Murray wrote. Murray also wrote that he had tried to be "open and honest" with Corbyn, but that he did not feel "this had been reciprocated."


-Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the treasury.

-Lillian Greenwood, shadow transport secretary.

-Gloria De Piero, shadow minister for young people.

-Vernon Coaker, shadow secretary for Northern Ireland.

-Lord Charlie Falconer, shadow justice secretary.

-Karl Turner, shadow attorney general, says he submitted his resignation with a "very heavy heart."

The Guardian reported that more ministers currently drafting their letters of resignation.

Others are taking a cautious path, warning about the dangers of Labour descending into chaos. Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, wrote on Twitter that he planned to stay loyal to Corbyn.

Related: Britain's divorce from the EU could get messy

"At an uncertain time like this for our country, I cannot see how it makes sense for the Opposition to plunge itself into a civil war," Burnham wrote. "I have never taken part in a coup against any Leader of the Labour Party and I am not going to start now."

Meanwhile, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson is returning early from Glastonbury festival to help deal with the in turmoil.

Watson released a statement, but did not voice support for Corbyn. "I was deeply disappointed to see Hilary Benn sacked in the early hours of this morning and equally saddened that so many talented, able and hard-working colleagues felt they had to leave," he said.

"It's very clear to me that we are heading for an early general election and the Labour party must be ready to form a government" Watson added.

Corbyn faces a vote of no confidence at a parliamentary Labour meeting scheduled for Monday. Meanwhile, more than 180,000 people have signed a petition titled "a vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn after Brexit."

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen

Watch: Jeremy Corbyn: The Outsider