Hove MP pledges to support unity candidate in ‘unavoidable’ leadership election

Posted On 07 Jul 2016 at 1:06 pm

Hove MP Peter Kyle has written to his constituency supporters to explain why he supported a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, saying it’s a matter of competence not ideology.

Peter Kyle making his maiden speech

Peter Kyle making his maiden speech

Mr Kyle has been openly critical of the Labour leader for some time, but the tumultous events of the past few weeks, including the mass resignation of the shadow cabinet and a vote of no confidence in Mr Corbyn, have prompted him to speak directly to constituents.

His direct experience of dealing with Mr Corbyn, including unanswered questions and a refusal to give guidance on policy issues, has led him to believe the leader lacks the necessary core skills and his ability to acquire them.

He says that speaking to residents he canvasses, meets at events or talks to in the street while campaigning for Remain up and down the country have been the most important factor in bringing him to the conclusion that Labour is losing support rather than gaining it.

And if talks to heal the rift fail, he says he will again vote against Corbyn in the ensuing “unavoidable” leadership election.

He said: “The first thing I’d like to say is that this was not ideological from my perspective.

“Leaders inspire us as the extraordinary individuals that they are, but above all for me it has always been about their ability to deliver a winning vision for Britain and the world.

“We in the Labour Party have learned at our peril that when we are called to be loyal to a person rather than a winning vision we risk factionalism, division, and failure.

“I have spoken out a couple of times in the spirit of the open debate that Jeremy called for when I felt we are drifting away from the purpose of delivering the change our country needs. But I have always maintained amicable relations with Jeremy in person and fought harder than most for Labour, both in my Hove campaign and every week since.

“In the last leadership election Jeremy scored a thumping victory which I of course accepted. As I said at the time, I wanted to give Jeremy the time and space to set his stall out and demonstrate his ability to broaden our appeal way beyond our 2015 base which was one of the lowest points in our history.

“In recent months I have become increasingly concerned that this has not come to pass. My experience in frontline politics has taught me not to believe one source, but to balance the evidence of how voters are responding. I do read the polling and speak to pollsters just like I read all the correspondence I receive. I hear what experts, academics, and pundits are saying. But paramount is what residents tell me as I canvass, go to community events, and speak to people in the street.

“All of this evidence combined leads me to the very firm conviction that rather than advancing on our 2015 position, we are slipping yet further.

“If this were our only problem then I would continue to fight for Labour in public, as I do unremittingly, and keep on voicing my deep concerns directly and discreetly to Jeremy and our front bench team in private.

“However, underlying our overall poor performance I have come to see that Jeremy lacks the core skills MPs, the party, and the country at large needs from someone in such a senior leadership position.

“In my opinion there is no hope of these skills being acquired fast enough to fill the desperate need that exists for them. I am very keen to stress again that I acted as I did on issues relating to competence, not ideology.

“As a backbench departmental chair I meet with Jeremy to discuss policy. As the only Labour MP in the area I’ve spent time with him to discuss issues affecting the southeast and I also attend the weekly Parliamentary Labour Party meeting where all Labour MP’s and peers come together, at which Jeremy has spoken on occasion.

“As time has passed I have become increasingly concerned at the lack of core leadership skills exhibited by Jeremy during these meetings. In several meetings Jeremy has been unable to offer me even basic leadership on key issues that affect us and that I need to communicate with the public and media about very often in my role as member of parliament.

“Desperate as I am to ensure a united Labour front, I have on occasion been forced to speak publicly without any idea of the leader’s approach to an issue. Sometimes this has been despite having asked him for guidance directly the previous day but for nothing at all to be forthcoming. It is simply not fair to expect MPs to operate in the almost total absence of leadership whilst at the same time expecting us to appear ‘loyal’.

“Imagine being in my shoes when I am live on TV or radio and asked about an issue that Jeremy has either refused or been unable to give me guidance on – so I’ve given an answer that is either in line with our 2015 manifesto or our general direction of travel. It’s pretty nerve wracking.

“But worst of all is when Jeremy gives a different answer to the same question in public and then I’m sent messages, sometimes by members, calling me ‘disloyal’ or a ‘traitor’ for not agreeing with my leader when in truth I have tried my very best to do so. I simply cannot, and will not, continue like this because it is not fair on you and it is not fair on me.

“Communicating a vision with clarity and purpose; reaching out to listen and analyse a wide range of opinions; doing the hard work to develop policies across the whole policy spectrum including crime, welfare, immigration, and job creation in addition to those for which there is a pre-existing interest; being decisive and inclusive; and being a steadfast performer in the House and media, not only at rallies in front of a friendly audience.

“And above all right now, speaking with clarity, passion, intelligence, and confidence about Britain’s future in finding a way out of the mess left by Brexiteers.

“These are the things we so desperately need and it pains me to say that Jeremy is simply unable to fulfil these expectations.

“During the referendum campaign my concerns were confirmed unequivocally and irrevocably.

“As you know I put my heart and soul into the referendum campaign. I got a people-carrier and toured our whole region. From Milton Keynes to Dover; The Medway market towns to Hove; and then the coastal towns right the way along to the Isle of White. I toured with an amazing team and in each stop campaigned with local CLPs who were so excited to be out talking to residents with a Labour MP at their side.

“However, underlying all of our positive, energetic campaigning I was struck by two things. The first was that so many of the residents I met who had previously voted Labour had become contemptuous (a word I do not use lightly) of our party. They felt time and again we simply do not understand the realities of living in a town or community in decline, where high street brands disappear monthly, where traditional industries have vanished, and younger generations have disappeared off to study or work elsewhere and don’t return afterwards.

“Whether right or wrong, many people in these communities feel that we do not speak for them, sympathise with their concerns, or propose solutions to their challenges and desire for a better life. We are simply not earning their faith.

“I was utterly devastated to debate Nigel Farage recently in Kent and see people who identified as former Labour voters, mostly the semi and un-skilled workers we exist to serve, cheering his every word and booing the very mention of our great party. I am sure you are wincing at the thought of this so please believe me when I say it was heartbreaking to experience.

“Bear in mind that many of these constituencies across our region were Labour until 2010 yet today ours is the only one left. We must retake 12 or 14 (in addition to every Scottish seat) if we are to have any chance of forming a government. Our task is mammoth and every shred of evidence I have seen and experienced across our region points to us sinking further towards defeat and not forwards towards victory.

“Jeremy is simply not reaching out beyond people who are committed left-wing or Labour voters and it is simply impossible for us to win back the south if we are not broadening our appeal.

“Secondly, activists and members throughout the campaign repeatedly asked me what Jeremy’s stance on Europe was. Why was he not speaking as often as the prime minister? And has he really changed his mind? If this was what activists were thinking, what on earth were the messages being received by the public?!

“And then there was that moment when Jeremy said he was ‘7.5 out of ten’ on the scale to Remain. The team of 50 I campaigned with the day after that comment were simply crestfallen. I was crestfallen. Put simply, if you answer a conviction question with a fraction you will never win the argument, and we didn’t.

“Last week Alan Johnson stood before MPs and apologised for the defeat and said he took his share of responsibility for Labour’s failure to deliver the votes needed for victory. Jeremy then said that he gave the campaign all he could and would not accept responsibility. After this I had no choice but to cast my vote as ‘no confidence’ in last Tuesday’s ballot.

“Throughout the campaign I met every week with Alan Johnson because I was the regional lead for the campaign. Each week Jeremy and his whole team were invited to attend, to contribute ideas and strategy, and to participate fully in how it was executed. Neither Jeremy or any of his team attended even one meeting.

“There is more I would like to say but I believe I have said enough to illustrate to you the extent of my frustration and upset. I did all I could do for my region and to help Alan, but in my heart I always knew that the dysfunctional relationships at the top of our party were damaging our ability to truly inspire the public and show the country what the Labour Party is truly capable of when it campaigns unequivocally, passionately, and harmoniously.

“In the last week I’ve seen some of the conspiracy theories popping up as to who and how this revolt against Jeremy started. But you don’t have to believe me when I say they are all nonsense, just look at the vast cross-section of the PLP who signed the motion.

“MPs from all parts of the party were stunned by the referendum result and knew in their hearts as people who see Jeremy up close every week that he simply cannot offer the leadership our party needs.

“What happened in the aftermath of the referendum and the subsequent sacking of Hilary Benn was a sequence of events that swept through our parliamentary party from which there is no return.

“As I write I do not know how this will play out. I know that the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, has been in discussions with the leader and other parts of the Labour family in order to break the impasse. If this does not bear fruit I simply cannot see how a leadership contest can be avoided.

“It is my current position to support whichever person emerges as the ‘unity candidate’ to stand against Jeremy. If the contest is opened further then I will decide which of them represents the best hope for leading Labour towards victory by putting our values and principles into action solving the challenges our country faces and realising the potential of our communities.

“We are in rare but not unprecedented times. In 1988 Tony Benn, with Jeremy Corbyn as his campaign manager, challenged Neil Kinnock for the leadership. In that fight Neil was returned with a mandate of 86%. I simply do not know how the battle our party faces will play out but I hope with all my heart it will be looked back upon, as Neil’s was, as a key moment in our party’s journey back to power.

“I realise that many people reading this will be supporters of Jeremy and hurt by my actions and that of the PLP. I am incredibly sorry by this. But I turn to you, my local membership, able to say that I have done all I can to support our front bench and deliver everything that has been asked of me by Labour since I became a candidate and later MP.

“That includes working as part of a parliamentary party that has tried to help and support Jeremy to a place where he is better able to earn the public’s trust and respect.

“I simply can do no more and to protect Jeremy from the electoral realities that Labour faces under his leadership and it would be a dereliction of my duty to the very people that you and I joined the Labour Party to serve if I allowed this to go on any further knowing that it is leading us to defeat.

“These are the very people we must also protect from the vindictiveness of Tory rule. But we cannot do this unless we address the chasm between the party as it currently stands and the people we are asking to vote for us, particularly in our own region where we were so beaten so heavily by the Tories only last year.”

  1. Rob Reply

    probably because he doesn’t trust you while you are turning the knife in his back, you blairite idiot

  2. Jason Smart Reply

    Hopefully Kyle will be deselected soon.

  3. Bob Frennish Reply

    Its happening on the right and the left. The elite, big business, those in power and MPs are not interested in what normal working class people say. There is no way Brexit will come to pass as despite what the majority of people voted for, those at the top have too much to lose so a way out (or rather remain) will be found. Likewise Corbyn has a massive mandate from the grassroots who want him as leader but Labour MPs couldn’t care less what the hoi polloi want and treat their views with contempt.

  4. Bob a job Reply

    Time to deselect this clown Kyle.

  5. Hussle Reply

    Hi Peter Kyle, thanks for taking your time to write this.

    Why didnt you and the rest of the plp ask us and confere with the party membership on this? We couldve had a discussion about whether J Corbyn is suitable or not, you might have even conviced me of the case you are making (which has merit). The way you approached this was like an ambush leaving no time for the party membership to react or have a say. Not only that but you are actively trying to prevent Corbyn from standing on the ballot and give the membership a say.

    I dont really care about J Corbyn, this is about party democracy. The way I feel we members have been betrayed, we are expected to go out and campaign for you but there is no accountability from your part. The Labour party is meant to be down up not the other way around. Been a Labourite for 19 years now, never voted anytihng else. I will abstain from voting on anything that has your name on it.

  6. Hample Reply

    I was so excited that you were voted in to my ward after beating the Conservatives. I really did not think Labour would win the election though as they were far too similar to the Conservatives and I was correct. When Jeremy Corbyn took part in the leadership challenge, I KNEW he was the most exciting and needed person to get Labour to a better place. Imagine my disappointment and dismay that you did not support him (even from the start). I’m afraid with all the bullying and backstabbing towards Corbyn that has been going on from the PLP, I find it very hard to support the party anymore. If Corbyn stays as leader, I will vote Labour in Hove again but if not, I will leave. I’m very disappointed in you.

  7. Brendan Flynn Reply

    Well done Peter Kyle for having the courage to speak up in the cause of an electable Labour party. If Momentum truly support the working people then for pity’s sake put Corbyn out of his misery and let him return to the back benches. I have respect for him as an individual but he has zero leadership qualities. I am a party member, lifelong union member and Labour voter and I remember what happened when Labour disunity let Thatcher into power. Do you? Well, we’re in for another dose of the same. Get behind the PLP and let’s give the Tories some grief – they are laughing their heads off at the moment(um).


    Thank you Peter Kyle for making it clear why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the man to take Labour back into power.

  9. Paul Groves Reply

    I believe Mps do not represent the views of their constituents. It is perhaps more helpful to look at it the other way round, that is MPs hold views which if they popular enough will win that MP a seat. With that in mind I believe as an MPyou should hold views which you believe to be correct, after that is you have digested enough material to make a reasonable and balanced judgement. So if your views coincide with others viewpoints all the better and if they do not then at least you speak with honesty and you are not trying to justify another persons point of view, when you don’t necessarily go along with that view yourself.

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