Jeremy Corbyn has defiantly announced a raft of shadow cabinet appointments as more frontbenchers resigned in protest, demanding he quit as Labour leader.
It was thought a dozen junior shadow ministers could resign on Monday – after Corbyn lost 12 members of his shadow cabinet on Sunday and faced calls to step down in the wake of last week’s EU referendum vote for Brexit and indications there could be a general election within months.
Prominent frontbencher Stephen Kinnock resigned on Monday as parliamentary private secretary to Angela Eagle, the shadow first secretary of state and shadow secretary of state for business, innovation and skills.
Also quitting on Monday ahead of a crunch meeting of the parliamentary Labour party was Diana Johnson, who resigned as a shadow foreign minister. Anna Turley stepped down as shadow minister for civil society and Toby Perkins quit as shadow armed forces minister.
Despite the resignations, the Labour leader said late on Sunday that he would not “betray the trust” of the people who voted for him and vowed to stand against anyone challenging him for the leadership.
Showing no sign of capitulating to the demands of a third of the now-former shadow cabinet, Corbyn announced a list of appointments with immediate effect. They included:
- Shadow foreign secretary – Emily Thornberry.
- Shadow health secretary – Diane Abbott.
- Shadow education secretary – Pat Glass.
- Shadow transport secretary – Andy McDonald.
- Shadow defence secretary – Clive Lewis.
- Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury – Rebecca Long-Bailey.
- Shadow international development secretary – Kate Osamor.
- Shadow environment food and rural affairs secretary – Rachel Maskell.
- Shadow voter engagement and youth affairs – Cat Smith.
- Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Dave Anderson.
Perkins’s absence will be notable on Monday afternoon during defence questions, underlining the fact that the Labour leader will find it difficult to operate without a team around him. A party committee, including the chair of the parliamentary Labour party, John Cryer, will meet at 2pm to discuss the motion of no confidence put forward by Margaret Hodge and whether it will be voted on on Monday night. Sources said that while some of the coup had been organised, many of the resignations were taking place organically.
Former shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, who resigned on Sunday, insisted the mass exodus was not a “planned coup” against Corbyn but instead a reaction to the “seismic” events that have shaken Westminster in recent days – the EU referendum result and David Cameron’s resignation.
Powell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she hoped Corbyn would “not drag this out any longer than necessary” and step down.
In his resignation letter, Kinnock, the high-profile MP for Aberavon, said he had “the deepest respect for your long service to our party and for the consistency with which you have served as an MP and as our leader”.
But he added: “However, in light of the deeply disappointing referendum result caused, in part, by the half-hearted and lacklustre role that you played in the campaign, I have come to the conclusion that you are no longer able to lead our party.
“Furthermore, British politics will be completely dominated in the coming years by the Brexit negotiations, and I do not believe that you have the requisite skills or experience to ensure that there is a strong Labour voice at the negotiating table as we undertake this monumentally complex task.”