UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to step down Tuesday, after his party’s lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a no-confidence motion against him.
With British politics in turmoil following a vote to leave the European Union, and amid claims that he did not do enough to campaign to remain in the EU, 172 of the Labour Party’s 229 lawmakers voted for Corbyn’s ouster, while just 40 backed his leadership.
“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy,” said Corbyn in a statement, according to The Guardian.
Over half of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet — the leadership of his party — have stepped down since Sunday in a coordinated series of resignations against the 67-year-old, who only became leader in September.
Corbyn, a veteran socialist and euroskeptic who voted against EU membership in a 1975 referendum, has come under heavy criticism from pro-EU lawmakers for his lukewarm campaigning. The Labour leader, who has in the past referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends” and refused to denounce their terrorist activity, has also denied his party has “an anti-Semitism problem” after a string of resignations by party members in recent months over anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments.
Many experts have blamed the strong anti-EU vote in Labour heartlands in northern England on Corbyn.
But Corbyn himself has blamed Conservative austerity measures for creating disenchantment in many working-class areas and said the media had not covered Labour’s referendum campaign, focusing instead on rifts within the ruling Conservatives.
Corbyn — who blasted “internal maneuvering” within his party — was defiant on Monday at a rally organized by the grassroots Momentum movement, largely made up of the far-left campaigners who helped get him elected.
“Don’t let the media divide us. Don’t let the people who wish us ill divide us. Stay together, strong and united for the kind of world we want to live in,” he said.
Five days after the shock vote for Britain to leave the EU, both of the parties that have dominated Westminster for nearly a century were in almost complete disarray.
The pro-EU chancellor (finance minister) George Osborne, long tipped to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron, ruled himself out on Tuesday. Cameron announced his resignation Friday, within hours of the Brexit result.
Former London mayor and “Leave” figurehead Boris Johnson — but now a bogeyman for many in the “Remain” camp — is tipped as the most likely candidate to lead the Conservatives and the country. The Tories have set a Thursday deadline for nominations, with Home Secretary Theresa May the other frontrunner.
The party wants the successor to Cameron to be in place by October.
A new poll Tuesday put May in the lead with 31 percent, against 24 percent for Johnson.
Nominations for the party leadership open Wednesday, and close Thursday.
If more than two candidates stand, Tory MPs will vote next week to whittle down the field to two nominees, before the new leader is chosen by a postal ballot of party members, who currently number around 150,000.
EU leaders said they wanted Britain to move more quickly on leaving, and on Monday the Tories said they expect the new leader to be in place by September 2.
Critics have questioned whether the “Leave” camp — and Johnson in particular — has any idea how to manage the unprecedented situation left by last week’s vote.
“He has still to offer anything like a concrete plan on how he would negotiate the post-Brexit future,” wrote former BBC political editor Nick Robinson.
He added: “The fallout from the biggest exercise in popular democracy has already been dramatic… It has, though, only just begun.
“The old order has been smashed. It may be a very long time — not weeks, not months but years — before the shape of the new order and the answers to all those questions become clear.”