Labour MP Owen Smith has called Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to sack him from the shadow cabinet “a mistake”. But Smith’s response has actually proved the Labour leader right.
I think it is a mistake, for Jeremy Corbyn in particular, who has always understood the value of people standing by their principles.
It is the position that he has often adopted, and it is certainly a value in him that others have extolled.
Smith also said his party needs to “show leadership on the issue” of Brexit.
It’s parliamentary procedure, however, to remove ministers under such circumstances – because of a convention called ‘collective cabinet responsibility’. This convention requires cabinet ministers, or shadow ministers, to publicly support official party policies.
Smith’s also saying Labour should “show leadership”. But in sacking Smith, Corbyn acted decisively to remove a shadow minister who was breaking with convention and threatening the cohesion of Labour’s Brexit policy. Some would argue that’s “leadership”.
Smith’s preference is to have a second referendum on the terms of Brexit because he does not agree with the decision made by the British people. But shadow secretary for exiting the EU Keir Starmer has said:
We have a duty to respect the outcome of the referendum
Smith’s opposition to Labour’s current position led one BBC interviewer to ask him:
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a second referendum. Surely you would fit better there?
In his opposition to Labour policy, Smith broke with parliamentary convention. And because of collective cabinet responsibility, Jeremy Corbyn had no real choice but to sack him. So the decision wasn’t a “mistake”. It was “showing leadership”.
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