Sunderland Labour Party chiefs call for calm

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn
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Labour officials on Wearside are calling for calm as the party’s leadership election heats up.

Tempers have been growing increasingly frayed on both sides since Jeremy Corbyn’s position at the head of the party came under threat.

Angela Eagle

Angela Eagle

MPs Owen Smith and Angela Eagle are both seeking to unseat Mr Corbyn.

Washington South ward councillor Graeme Miller is chairman of the Washington and Sunderland West Constituency Labour Party (CLP), whose MP Sharon Hodgson resigned from her post as shadow minister for children and families last month.

He admitted party members were divided over the rights and wrongs of the bid to unseat Jermey Corbyn.

“The CLP has mixed views on this. Some people support the leader, some people support the MP’s position,” he said.

If Jeremy does win, they have to get behind him. If he does not, and we get a new person, they have to get behind him or her.

Coun Graeme Miller

“The debate will be followed through in the election, which I hope is quick. We are at an important point in the Labour Party’s history - this will determine the direction we take for quite some time.

“Almost all the members of the Labour Party want to put this to bed. If we are going to have a leadership election, let’s have everybody from the parliamentary party that thinks they could do it and get it done.

Support for the leader was still high among those who has backed him originally: “The party members who like him think he has done an excellent job. The trick will be, what is the membership that will get to vote?” said Coun Miller.

“If you joined after January 12, you won’t get to vote and if you want to be a registered voter, you have got to pay the £25.

Graeme Miller

Graeme Miller

“The membership that is allowed to vote will be determining who the leader of the party is.”

It was important that the party’s MPs rallied round whoever emerged victorious, said Coun Miller.

“If Jeremy does win, they have to get behind him. If he does not, and we get a new person, they have to get behind him or her.

“Our job in opposition is to hold the government to account. The election is an essential part of getting us back on track and want it to be done in a fair, comradely way.

Philip Tye.

Philip Tye.

“We can have a row - there’s nothing wrong with that - but then let’s get on with our job of winning the next election.”

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has backed Angela Eagle’s leadership bid - and CLP chairman Coun Phil Tye said she had the support of members.

“The vast majority support Bridget’s position - there’s no real difference of views,” he said.

“Bridget has been quite robust. She was supportive of the leader over a period of time but did not think he could take the party forward.”

Coun Tye said he was glad the party’s governing executive had resisted calls to exclude Mr Corbyn’s name from the ballot unless he could attract the support of a minimum number of MPs.

“I have said Jeremy should be on the ballot paper,” he said. “I think it is a leadership challenge, therefore he should be on the ballot paper.”

And he called for the party to carry out the election in a proper manner and end its infighting: “We have always been a party that respects each others’ differences,” he said.

“We have got to be very, very careful that we treat everybody properly, we respect everybody’s views and the decision that is made, whichever way it goes, is respected.”