Statement by Chuka Umunna MP on leaving the Shadow Cabinet by mutual agreement
I had a good discussion with the new Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, today. Further to that discussion we have both mutually agreed that it would be best for me to support his leadership from the backbenches.
It has been an immense privilege and honour to serve the Labour Party as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills since 2011 when I was asked to take on the role by our former leader, Ed Miliband. Leaving the Shadow Cabinet has been one of the most difficult personal political decisions I have had to make but I believe it to be the right one.
Whilst there is much on which Jeremy and I agree, there are a number of key points of difference on policy which I believe it would be dishonest to deny exist. If Jeremy's clear victory yesterday demonstrated anything, it was a desire for politicians to be true to what they believe – I want to abide by this. Also, Jeremy should be free to appoint a Shadow Cabinet committed to implementing the policies on which he campaigned in the contest – I clearly had some differences in view on how we build a more equal, democratic, free and fair society.
Given these differences, not least on the European referendum, I would find it difficult to abide by the collective responsibility that comes with serving in the Shadow Cabinet. That is why Jeremy and I have agreed I can more effectively support his leadership from the backbenches. In particular, it is my view that we should support the UK remaining a member of the EU, notwithstanding the outcome of any renegotiation by the Prime Minister, and I cannot envisage any circumstances where I would be campaigning alongside those who would argue for us to leave – Jeremy has made it clear to me that he does not wholeheartedly share this view.
So, I will do whatever I can to get Labour back into office from the backbenches – getting back into office is the best way of putting our principles and values into action. A number of colleagues, not least our new Deputy Leader, have illustrated that you can make a substantial contribution to the national debate without being in the Shadow Cabinet and I intend to follow their example.
I meant what I said about the need to unify and come together after the leadership contest, so have no interest in being a thorn in the side of the leadership. One of the tasks the leadership will have to embark on is winning back support from all communities, not least our black and ethnic minority communities. With that in mind, my Labour Parliamentary colleague Keith Vaz and I will be carrying out an independent review into the Labour Party’s support amongst Britain’s ethnic minority communities which Jeremy has warmly welcomed and has committed to support.