By Cecilia Wang
Clive Lewis, a former ally of Jeremy Corbyn, resigned from the Shadow Cabinet on 8th February after Labour imposed a three-line whip on the Government’s Brexit bill. This is in line with the parliamentary rule that any shadow minister who fails to obey such a whip cannot remain on the frontbench. Mr Lewis told his Norwich constituents, on the evening of the preceding Friday, that he was prepared to quit his position as shadow business secretary if Labour’s amendments in the Commons fall flat. None of the proposed amendments managed to rally enough support to pass.
In an emotive resignation letter, Mr Lewis declares that he could not “in good conscience vote for something [he] believe[s] will ultimately harm the city.” The resignation was accepted by the Labour leader. Mr Corbyn praised Mr Lewis as “an assent” and attempted to tone down the incident as “not a disaster.” He voiced sympathies for “MPs representing constituencies which voted Remain,” whilst re-affirming Labour’s commitment to “not frustrate the triggering of Article 50.” In some left-wing circles, Mr Lewis has been spoken of as a potential successor. For example, the shadow Chancellor, a staunch ally of Mr Corbyn, has previously hailed him as a potential future leader.
There was speculation following the resignation as it was reported that Mr Lewis had begun sounding out MPs for support. Owen Jones, a prominent leftwing commentator with a wide appeal to Labour leader’s grassroots supporters, is reported to have contacted MPs about Mr Lewis’ potential chances. However, he dismissed reports that he has made calls on Mr Lewis’ behalf. The resignation came at an opportune time as some speculate that Mr Lewis has been vying the leadership since as early as the party’s annual conference, when he reportedly punched a wall after his speech on Trident was altered by Mr Corbyn’s aids at the last minute.
Mr Lewis’ resignation prompted a reshuffle of the shadow cabinet, with Rebecca Long-Bailey elevated to fill his shoes. She is one of the four MPs from the 2015 intake promoted to the shadow cabinet. Mr Corbyn sacked Mr Trickett, the party’s election co-ordinator, reportedly after the Tories took a record lead over Labour in a series of disastrous polls. The decision came about on the eve of two critical by-elections, indicating the Labour leader’s desire for electoral success. In an interview with the BBC, Mr Corbyn acknowledged that “there was a difference of opinion with some…colleagues,” but insisted that the party remains united.
Photograph: Wikipedia Commons