SOUTHAMPTON Test MP Alan Whitehead has become the latest Labour figure to resign from party leader Jeremy Corbyn's team.

The Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister joins 18 shadow cabinet members and a raft of shadow junior ministers in resigning following Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn's sacking on Sunday.

Criticism against Mr Corbyn has mounted in the last few days, with leading party figures attacking his leadership in the run-up to the EU Referendum.

Dr Whitehead's resignation follows a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party last night.

In his letter to Mr Corbyn he says: "You are a good, decent, committed person but unfortunately not the right person to lead the Opposition.

"I hope for the sake of the Labour Party, and the millions of Labour supporters and voters across the country, that you will seriously consider your position."

Speaking to the Daily Echo, he said: "I am very sad about this because it has been a job I particularly wanted to so, so it's not a decision I have taken lightly.

"I think it's a matter of personal integrity that if you come to the conclusion as I have that we need to have a contest for the leadership of the Labour Party.

"That therefore means I can no longer give my complete support the leader in Parliament as a member of the frontbench team, so as I said in my letter I think it would be dishonest for me to continue to work in a position on the frontbench which necessarily entails the collective responsibility and everything that goes with it, so I feel I cannot continue."

Saying the Labour Party's constitution allows for an annual leadership contest, he continued: "I came to the conclusion that that's what I think we should do because I really just don't think that as it has turned out Jeremy is the right person to lead the party.

"That's no reflection on Jeremy, who is a man of great decency, integrity and kindness, but I don't think he's the right person to take the Labour Party forward at this minute and particularly in view of the recent cataclysmic events that have taken place.

"It's not just an issue for Parliament, it's an issue that the millions of Labour supporters and voters need a proper voice and alternative to what the Government is putting forward that are important for Britain's future."

Dr Whitehead, an MP since 1997, continued: "When he was first elected as leader of the party, I didn't nominate him but I was prepared to give him my best go, but I think it has been demonstrated in the last year that whatever Jeremy's qualities are he is not someone who can put Labour across beyond the confines of Westminster."

He added that, if a leadership contest does now take place, the eventual winner needs to be able to "unify" the party ahead of a potential early General Election.

Daily Echo:
Southampton City Council leader Cllr Simon Letts, above, says Mr Corbyn should resign and hold a fresh leadership contest to decide whether he has the support of party members and settle the matter.

A raft of party MPs resigned from Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in the wake of the EU referendum, criticising his leadership in the run-up to the vote.

However Mr Corbyn, elected to the party leadership by a landslide last year, has remained defiant and vowed to continue as leader.

Mr Corbyn was reportedly told in a meeting with deputy leader Tom Watson that he faces a leadership election, and Cllr Letts told the Daily Echo that he sees a fresh contest as the only way of resolving the issue.

He said: “What we want to see stop happening is us biting chunks out of each other and provide opposition to the government.

“The only resolution is for Jeremy Corbyn to take his mandate to the membership again.

“If I was him, and I’m not, I would say ‘you are telling me you have no confidence in me but let’s see, I will resign and take this to the membership’.

“I think you’ve got to resolve it by taking it back to the members.”

Yesterday shadow first secretary of state Angela Eagle became the most senior front bench member to resign.

She said the party needed a leader who could “unite rather than divide the Labour Party’’, joining shadow h minister John Healey, shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy and shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith in standing down.

On Sunday Mr Corbyn lost 12 Shadow Cabinet ministers, with the mass resignations sparked by the sacking of former Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, with another eight standing down yesterday as well as other shadow ministers.

Former shadow leader of the House of Commons Chris Bryant said he suspected Mr Corbyn voted for Brexit. after he declined to tell him which way he voted, saying: ‘’We cannot go forward to a General Election with a leader who cannot command the respect of the parliamentary party or, much more importantly, of the voters.’’ 

However Mr Corbyn insisted that he would fight to keep the leadership, saying: ‘’I was elected by hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics.”

He has the support of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said he should remain as leader, and 12 union leaders who said in a joint statement that:

“The last thing Labour needs is a manufactured leadership row of its own in the midst of this crisis and we call upon all Labour MPs not to engage in any such indulgence”.