MP Neil Coyle has told the News why he supports Owen Smith over Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Labour Party, and why he does not believe the party will split.
Last week the Member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark sent an email to his 1,500 local Labour members, saying he felt “deeply concerned about the parlous state of the national party”.
In his email, the outspoken critic of Jeremy Corbyn, who resigned from his shadow ministerial team after the EU referendum, said: “I’ve known Jeremy for about six years but he’s sadly plunged our party into a crisis, and is intent on continuing despite holding the worst opposition leadership ratings ever recorded, and with more voters having made their minds up negatively about him than for previous leaders.
“There is so much to lose if this continues, especially given how many Labour voters from May last year now say they will not support our party.”
He went on to complain about the treatment of fellow Labour MPs, citing that 40 women MPs had written to the leader to complain about bullying, hostility and intimidation within the party.
It was in the final paragraph of his message that Neil spoke about his preference for Smith over Corbyn, calling him a “new, more capable and stronger, unifying leader”.
Speaking to the News, he said: “We chose Owen Smith because we needed a single candidate to be the standard bearer. Someone left or centre left and who unifying and who is really keen to get on with it.
“In ten days Owen has put forward more substantial policy ideas than Jeremy had in ten months.
“In his new deal, Owen has talked about investing in the old industrial heartlands and in infrastructure. He is one of the only politicians talking about improving broadband across the country. We need to be able to compete with European cities like Berlin and Madrid to sell our services, which anyone working from home will know is difficult if we can’t rely on our internet supply.
“Owen is also clearly big on housing, whereas Jeremy’s housing policy is exactly the same as we had in Ed Miliband’s manifesto.
“I want the party to survive and I think the best way is with a new leader.”
He also claimed his constituency members seemed to be bucking the national trend in favouring Owen Smith over Corbyn.
“I have had correspondence with about half my members directly now and those seeking Corbyn to go outnumber his supporters by about 3:1 which I hope will be reflected in the final voting,” Neil said.
Meanwhile he revealed that he “wanted to step down” from his role as private secretary to the shadow leader of the Commons before the European Union Referendum on June 23. He instead handed in his notice on June 27 with the mass exodus of shadow ministers from Corbyn’s office.
Asked about the chances of the party splitting after the leadership election, Neil told the News he did not know of any single Labour MP who had said they wanted the party to break in two.
“Not one, it’s not on the cards,” he said, while also saying “no” to the question of whether he would leave if Corbyn was re-elected.
He also confirmed that if Jeremy Corbyn won, he would not serve in his team, instead promising to focus on working in the constituency and as a member of the work and pensions select committee.
The News contacted Mr Corbyn’s team but received no response.