Shadow foreign secretary says he was dismissed in middle of night after telling party leader there was no confidence in his ability to win the next election
Jeremy Corbyn sacked Hilary Benn in the early hours of Sunday morning after the Observer revealed that the shadow foreign secretary was preparing to lead a coup against the Labour leader.
Benn said he had been dismissed after telling Corbyn he had lost confidence in his ability to lead the party. He added: It has now become clear that there is widespread concern among Labour MPs and in the shadow cabinet about Jeremy Corbyns leadership of our party.
In particular, there is no confidence in our ability to win the next election, which may come much sooner than expected, if Jeremy continues as leader.
It is understood that Benn had called fellow MPs over the weekend to suggest that he would ask Corbyn to stand down if there was significant support for a move against him. He had also asked shadow cabinet colleagues to join him in resigning if Corbyn ignored that request.
Corbyn informed Benn, the son of his former mentor, Tony Benn, at 1am on Sunday that he was sacking him because he had lost the Labour leaders trust, a spokesman for the party leader said.
It is understood that an overwhelming majority of members of the shadow cabinet still believe that Corbyn should quit, in the wake of millions of Labour voters ignoring their leaders advice to vote in favour of Britains continued membership of the EU, and amid the possibility of an early general election.
Leaked internal Labour party polling of people who voted for Labour in 2015 reveals that nearly a third (29%) would support a different party if a general election was held today.
A Labour source said: MPs and members were worried about their prospects at the next election under Corbyn, but thought they had four years to turn things around. Now many fear they may have just four months if a snap election is called, so know they must act now to change the leader.
Corbyn, speaking earlier on Saturday at a speech in London, had acknowledged rumblings of discontent about his leadership. Yes, there are some people in the Labour party, and the parliamentary Labour party in particular, who probably want someone else to be the leader I think theyve made that abundantly clear, he said.
Sources close to the leadership indicated that Benn had been a marked man even before this newspapers revelations. The MP for Leeds Central electrified his party, and dismayed Corbyn, when he made a passionate speech in favour of British military involvement in Syria in December.