General election 2019: Ex-MP Ruth Smeeth describes Labour as 'nasty party'

media captionRuth Smeeth accuses Corbyn of nearly breaking Labour

An ousted Labour MP said its leader's inaction on anti-Semitism has turned it into the "nasty party".

Ruth Smeeth lost her seat in Stoke-on-Trent North after four years, as the town turned blue for the first time.

The Tories also won in Stoke-on-Trent Central for the first time since 1950, and Newcastle-under-Lyme for the first time in a century.

Ms Smeeth said the result made her question "whether the Labour Party even has any right to exist".

Conservative Jonathan Gullis, who won Stoke-on-Trent North from from Ms Smeeth, secured a majority of 6,286 votes.

It is the first time since the seat's creation in 1950 that it has not been Labour.

Ms Smeeth, who is Jewish and had represented the area since 2015, said it was "heartbreaking" to hear on the doorstep in the run-up to the election that people supported her as their MP, but could not vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

image captionRuth Smeeth had held Stoke-on-Trent North since 2015

She said Mr Corbyn had "no place at the leadership of any party" and should have gone with "immediate effect".

"Jeremy Corbyn's actions and inaction on anti-Semitism has made us the nasty party," she said.

"Jewish friends have told me today they feel a Labour victory would make them unsafe - that is despicable, we, the Labour leadership should be ashamed."

Ms Smeeth added Mr Corbyn had been "at best a bystander" to anti-Semitism and "at worst culpable and directly involved" and should be "looking at himself in a mirror and deciding whether he is a racist".

She added: "We are a Labour city, we are a Labour area, so on that basis this is devastating, this is seismic, this is the end.

"For me this is about whether the Labour Party even has any right to exist, whether we have anything left to say, because unless we represent places like Stoke-on-Trent, who we were literally created to represent, then what is the point of us?"

In a statement, the Jewish Labour Movement said: "We are distraught that our courageous Parliamentary Chair, Ruth Smeeth, was not re-elected.

"Ruth has represented the best of Labour over these past few years - unafraid and determined to hold the Party's leadership accountable for their failure to tackle anti-Semitism despite the abuse she's faced.

"Her loss to the Parliamentary Labour Party will be felt by the entire Labour movement."

Dame Margaret Hodge, who held her seat in Barking for Labour, said a year ago she was one of four Jewish Labour MPs but was now the "last woman left standing".

She said Ruth Smeeth has been a "fantastic campaigner and served her constituents brilliantly."

In response to Ms Smeeth's comment, the Labour Party highlighted Mr Corbyn's Friday speech, in which he said: "I inherited a system that didn't work in the Labour Party on anti-Semitism.

"I introduced the rule changes necessary to deal with it and they're in operation.

"But I think anti-Semitism is an absolute evil curse within our society and I would always condemn it, and always do and always will."

media captionGeneral election 2019: Labour loses across West Midlands

Mr Gullis said he did not think the vote was "all to do with Brexit".

"I think they have seen what has happened in Stoke-on-Trent South with Jack Brereton and I think they wanted that change, they wanted to see a different kind of politics," he said.

Mr Brereton was also re-elected as the Conservative in his seat with a majority of 11,271 votes.

image captionJonathan Gullis said the vote was not "all to do" with Brexit

In Newcastle-under-Lyme, Labour's Paul Farrelly had a majority of just 30 votes at the last election in 2017, which Aaron Bell increased to 7,446 for the Tories.

The seat had been held by Labour since 1919 when JC Wedgwood abandoned the Liberal Party.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionAaron Bell is the first Conservative to win in Newcastle-under-Lyme in a century

Mr Bell said voters had come over to the party to "get Brexit done".

Mr Bell said: "It is a huge statement of faith from the people of Newcastle.

"Based on the feedback I've got on the doorsteps, people feel the Labour Party abandoned them and they were coming over to us to get Brexit done."

image captionAaron Bell won a majority of 7,446 votes

The Tories also took Stoke-on-Trent Central, a seat which has been held by Labour since it was created in 1950.

Jo Gideon secured a majority of 670 votes.

Earlier, former MP Gareth Snell said the elections had been "disastrous" for Labour.

"The message heard by voters is that Labour is trying to stop Brexit," he said.

"Unfortunately, [the shadow cabinet] decided stopping Brexit was more important than respecting the vote in marginal constituencies in the Midlands and the North," he said.

Analysis by Patrick Burns, political editor for Midlands Today

This landmark election transforms the political map of Stoke-on-Trent. Conservative gains, giving them a clean sweep of all the seats in what had been Labour's core constituencies, will be seen as a vindication of the Tories' strategy to reach out to working class voters, especially in places which registered large leave majorities in the referendum.

For Labour, the defeated candidate in Stoke-on-Trent Central, Gareth Snell, was among the first to call for the party leader Jeremy Corbyn to stand down.

It's a disappointing result for the Liberal Democrats who had no West Midlands MPs in the last Parliament and they continue to fail to make serious inroads here.

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