U.K. Labour Lawmaker Reed Quits, Setting Up Election Battle

  • Reed represented Copeland in northwest England for 12 years
  • Corbyn must defend narrow majority in face of UKIP attack

Jamie Reed, a lawmaker with the U.K.’s Labour opposition who rebelled against his leader, Jeremy Corbyn, resigned his parliamentary seat, triggering a tricky by-election for the party.

Reed will quit representing his Copeland constituency in northwest England at the end of January to take up the post of head of development and community relations at Sellafield Ltd., which manages the country’s largest nuclear site within the district. He announced the move on Wednesday in a resignation letter to Corbyn, which he posted on Twitter. He’s been the local member of Parliament since 2005.

The departure presents a challenge for Corbyn, who must defend a relatively narrow margin in Copeland over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives. The Labour vote may be squeezed by the U.K. Independence Party, whose new leader, Paul Nuttall, vowed last month to challenge Labour in its northern heartlands, accusing Corbyn of being out of touch with its traditional working-class voters. Reed won the seat in the 2015 general election with 42 percent of the vote, compared with 36 percent for the Tories and 16 percent for UKIP.

“Communities like mine have felt the painful impact of Conservative policy more than other areas of the country: in local government, in education, in infrastructure investment but most of all within the National Health Service,” Reed wrote to Corbyn. “I wish you every success in your endeavors to become our next Labour prime minister.”

Reed, who quit his front-bench seat as a Labour spokesman on health when Corbyn was first elected to lead the party in 2015, was an outspoken critic of the leader this summer, when dozens of members of Corbyn’s team of spokespeople quit in an effort to oust the hard-line left-winger. In an interview in June, Reed said Corbyn and his finance spokesman, John McDonnell, were the “biggest threat” to Labour.

“The situation in the party is unlike nothing I’ve ever experienced in politics,” he said. “You have a very vociferous group of people, supporting the leader and the shadow chancellor, and you have the parliamentary party and overwhelmingly the majority of mainstream Labour voters who are against what feels not so much as a leadership team, but an occupation.”

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