Lewis’ resignation “not a disaster” says Corbyn as he accuses BBC of “fake news”

9th February, 2017 9:51 am

Jeremy Corbyn today insisted the resignation of his business spokesman over Brexit was “not a disaster” and dismissed suggestions that he might step down as leader before the next election.

Corbyn said Labour had to “respect” the result of the referendum, despite the rebellion of 52 MPs against his three-line whip on article 50 last night, as expectations grew of a swift shadow cabinet reshuffle following the departure of Clive Lewis as shadow business secretary.

He also criticised as “fake news” and “absolute nonsense” the report that he himself could quit by 2020. Over the last week Corbyn has faced rumours – fuelled by a tweet published by the political editor of the Manchester Evening News – that he had told his inner circle he had named a date for his retirement before the general election, in order to allow a younger figure from Labour’s left to take over. Aides have rubbished the stories, however.

Today Corbyn attacked the BBC for pursuing what he described as “fake news” when presenter Charlie Stayt asked about the stories he was considering a date to leave the leader’s job.

“I’m really surprised that the BBC is reporting fake news. There is no news,” Corbyn said.

“Listen, I was elected leader of this party. I’m very proud to lead this party. We will go through this process demanding social justice from the government in Britain, setting out our economic plans for an investment-led economy, opposing this government on the crisis in social care and the health service, demanding real action on the housing crisis taking place all over this country. That is our agenda. That is what we are united on. And that is what I’m doing.”

Lewis quit his role at the head of the shadow business team after a day spent considering his options. He said he was leaving the frontbench with a “heavy heart” and pledged to work with Corbyn from the backbenches.

The former Territorial Army soldier, who has been tipped as a future leadership candidate, published a statement simultaneously with Corbyn in a sign the announcement of his resignation had been co-ordinated with the leader’s office.

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