Corbyn's Brexit support in Commons loses Labour majority on Tower Hamlets Council
PUBLISHED: 21:04 09 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:09 10 February 2017
Jeremy Corbyn's three-line whip supporting the Brexit vote in the Commons yesterday which led to 50 Labour MPs rebelling has had a knock-on effect causing the party to lose overall control on a local council in east London.
The former Labour Group chairman on Tower Hamlets council has quit the party because of Corbyn’s support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Commons majority vote to trigger Article 50, the clause to exit the EU.
Cllr Andrew Cregan, a passionate ‘remainer’ supporting Britain’s place in the EU, has quit the party and switched to Liberal Democrats.
“I have resigned Labour after much soul-searching,” he told the East London Advertiser.
“I joined Labour because I believed in its core values when it was unambiguously pro-European.
“But Corbyn’s leadership has taken the party backwards—he failed to put forward the overwhelming case for remaining in the EU in the referendum and has let down all the people of Britain.
“I will have no part of a political party that is acquiescent in taking our country out of the EU and the Single Market, breaking links with our friends, allies and closest trading partners.”
Cllr Cregan has been in talks with the Lib Dem’s Poplar & Limehouse prospective MP Elaine Bagshaw to plan the party’s come-back in the post-Brexit period which has seen its local membership rocket from 170 to almost 520. The party is continuing to campaign for a second referendum on the issue.
Ms Bagshaw, who ran for Tower Hamlets mayor in 2015 after Lutfur Rahman was banned from office, said: “Brexit is one of the biggest threats to the UK there has been in our lifetime, yet Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have forgotten what it means to be an opposition.
“They are skipping hand-in-hand off the edge of the Brexit cliff with Theresa May and the Tories.”
Cllr Gregan, who was Labour’s deputy chairman on planning and chaired his last meeting four weeks ago, puts Lib Dems back on the council after an absence of three year’s following the party’s wipeout at the 2014 local elections.
Labour Mayor John Biggs put the defection down as “a mistake” but understood why he quit the party.
He told the Advertiser: “I know that Andrew is very passionate about the EU and felt that the leader of our party in Parliament alienated him to a point where he didn’t want to stay a member.
“His move means we’ve lost out majority on the council, but we’re still the biggest party with 22 out of 45 councillors. No-one has a majority, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to continue.”
Cregan returned from Brussels this week representing the World British Retail consortium.
He tabled a motion last March at Tower Hamlets Council supporting Britain’s continued EU membership before last summer’s referendum. It pointed out that the East End of London has benefited from an £11m scheme funded by the European Social Fund to help 4,000 people into work, while Shoreditch has had a £22m European Regional Development Fund investment in small businesses and tech start-ups.
He said at the time: “We are book-ended by The City and Canary Wharf, Europe’s financial centre. Our EU membership is of strategic importance to the financial sector that employs 700,000 people and accounts for 12 per cent of the UK’s GDP.”
He was concerned as chair of Tower Hamlets Pensions committee about the impact Brexit could have on the £1 billion Local Government Pension fund that would be affected by a fall in Sterling.
Now his “worst nightmare” is coming true—and he blames Corbyn and Labour for helping Tory Euro-sceptics to steer the country towards it.