Wales

Labour crisis: Griffith and Smith quit shadow cabinet

Nia Griffith, Owen Smith and Chris Bryant Image copyright BBC/PA
Image caption Nia Griffith, Owen Smith and Chris Bryant have all resigned

Two more Welsh members of Labour's Shadow Cabinet have resigned in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

Work and pensions spokesman Owen Smith and Shadow Welsh Secretary Nia Griffith followed Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, who resigned as shadow leader of the house.

Most of Labour's front bench has quit over Mr Corbyn's EU campaign efforts.

Mr Smith, who has ruled himself out of any leadership contest, said: "It breaks my heart to say I cannot see how he can continue as leader."

A string of front bench figures have stepped down amid dismay over what many saw as Mr Corbyn's half-hearted performance during the EU referendum campaign won by Leave.

The resignations on Monday followed a meeting at which Mr Corbyn was urged to step down.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNia Griffith said Labour needed to present a "'united front" ready for an election

Mr Smith said he feared the Labour party could split over the leadership issue.

"I went into this morning's meeting with Jeremy hoping not to resign, hoping that I was going to hear a plan to bring the party back together," he said.

"And I'm afraid I didn't hear that from him.

"I think we are at a moment where we desperately need a strong Labour party.

"It feels that the collision between the people who're seeking to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn and the people who are trying to stick in there in Jeremy Corbyn's team risks breaking the Labour party."

In her resignation statement, Ms Griffith said: "I made clear to Jeremy that I have always admired his commitment to the causes that matter to him, but last week's referendum result and the likelihood of an early general election mean that the party now requires new leadership.

"Jeremy has lost the confidence of the party, including many members who initially supported him, and he should now do the honourable thing and resign."

Ms Griffith's junior spokespeople on Wales - Susan Elan Jones and Gerald Jones - have stepped down with her.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption'It breaks my heart', says Owen Smith (pictured with Lisa Nandy, who also resigned)

The wave of resignations began following the sacking of Hilary Benn as shadow foreign minister on Sunday after Mr Benn told Mr Corbyn he had lost confidence in his ability to lead the Labour party.

Mr Corbyn has announced a new team, including Emily Thornberry as shadow foreign secretary and Diane Abbot moving to health, saying he regretted the resignations but pledged to stand in any new leadership contest.

Earlier on Monday, Caerphilly MP Wayne David quit the Labour front bench, saying Mr Corbyn was not "up to the job" in the wake of the EU referendum vote for Brexit.

Mr David held shadow briefs for Scotland, the Cabinet Office and political reform in the shadow justice team.

He said: "The feedback I've got from Labour party members and also from members of the public who have loyally voted Labour for many, many years is that they will not continue to vote Labour as long as Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the party.

"And we cannot bury our heads in our hand - we have to acknowledge that reality."

Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock has also resigned as an aide to shadow business minister Angela Eagle, citing Mr Corbyn's "half-hearted and lacklustre role" in the EU campaign.

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds stepped down as an employment spokesman.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionChris Bryant says Jeremy Corbyn was 'inappropriately inept' in the EU campaign

On Sunday, Mr Bryant was the first of the three Welsh MPs in the shadow cabinet to step down.

He told BBC Wales on Monday: "Last week we helped Jeremy hand the right in this country the biggest victory they've had for a century and shot to pieces one of our most important economic and financial policies, namely remaining in the European Union.

"I just think that means his position is now untenable.

"I said to Jeremy, I've tried my best to make this work but the truth is you did undermine our campaign in the European election and in the end people didn't know whether you wanted us to remain or leave.

"And I fear if we go into a general election - which may come in a matter of months now - that kind of ambivalence and poor campaigning will simply lead to the destruction of the Labour party."

Mr Bryant added that Labour was "not going to go back to what it was under Blair or Brown", but said the party needed "a leader who is convincing to the vast majority of voters in this country".

Three Welsh candidates who stood in last year's general election are signatories on a list of 57 from across England, Wales and Scotland who have called on Mr Corbyn to go.

Mary Wimbury, Mari Williams and Delyth Evans, who stood in Aberconwy, Cardiff North and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire respectively, added their names to the letter.

It said: "We believe we must accept that we cannot achieve our shared ambitions for the future of the United Kingdom without a leader able to command the confidence of the country.

"That is why we believe that the Labour party must seek a change of leadership."

More on this story