Stevenage Labour Party divided over leadership choices as High Court battle over new members’ votes hots up

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to Sharon Taylor during his visit Stevenage

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to Sharon Taylor during his visit Stevenage - Credit: Archant

As the High Court ruled yesterday that Labour Party members recruited since January will be able to vote in the party’s upcoming leadership election, the Comet can reveal differences of opinion within the Labour Party and the left wing movement in Stevenage, over the contest.

Owen Smith

Owen Smith - Credit: Archant

The landmark ruling which – provided an appeal against it on Thursday fails – will mean the 130,000 party members recruited nationally within the past six months – which includes many new members in Stevenage – will now be able to vote in the leadership election, where they had previously been barred. Many believe this will play into Mr Corbyn’s hands.

Whilst some Labour councillors on Stevenage Borough Council have declared their support for relative newcomer Owen Smith as leader, a left wing movement is attempting to generate support for veteran socialist Mr Corbyn.

Council leader Sharon Taylor has already declared publicly for Mr Smith, and passionately believes the party needs a new leader. It is thought her view is supported by the majority of the Labour group.

She said: “I do understand the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics but we have to appeal to the voters out there who are going to make their minds up at each election.

Councillor Sharon Taylor

Councillor Sharon Taylor - Credit: Archant

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“He has gone directly to the people, but we have to be the main opposition party in parliament, and to have strong opposition in British politics is vital.

“To me leadership of the parliamentary party is vital at the moment as it’s shaping the future of a Labour government and all the other Labour MPs in parliament have a mandate from their constituents.

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“I’ve met Owen Smith on a number of occasions recently. It’s a very bold challenge he’s made and to do that takes courage and determination.

“He has a policy platform I’ve been longing to see and is already generating a very good team of people around him.”

Steve Glennon

Steve Glennon - Credit: Archant

Mrs Taylor added however the Stevenage Labour Party will stand behind whichever leader is chosen.

Stevenage Socialist Party member Steve Glennon says he believes Mrs Taylor’s view only represents about ten per cent of the local Labour Party members, with the vast majority of the party backing Mr Corbyn.

He said: “The Stevenage TUC branch has passed a motion calling on all its members to vote for Corbyn and the local Unite branches have done the same.

“The feeling among the general groundswell of ordinary people is they want Corbyn.

“He is the only person who represents the non-establishment in politics and 99 per cent of the ordinary people.”

Mr Glennon believes Mr Corbyn will unite the party once he gets elected because because those MPs who do not support him will resign or be deselected before the next general election.

“If you want a Labour Party that represents the working people you’ve got to vote for Corbyn,” he said.

The Old Town division of the Labour Party recently passed a motion narrowly in favour of Mr Corbyn but only a small percentage of party members were present.

The whole party will meet this Saturday for a debate and then a resolution.

The outcome of its vote will be published on the candidates’ campaign literature.

The leadership election result will be announced on September 24.

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