Wales politics

Labour's Stevens backs Owen Smith for leader

Jo Stevens, Cardiff Central MP

Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens has said she is backing Owen Smith for Labour leader.

The shadow minister for justice had been critical of moves against current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But she now says it has become "painfully obvious" Labour is unable even to fulfil the basic operation of being official opposition.

She said Mr Smith was the "best candidate" to "unite our party and win the next general election".

Mr Smith was due to launch his leadership campaign on Friday but postponed the event in the wake of the attack in Nice.

Ms Stevens told BBC Wales in June that a vote of no-confidence in Jeremy Corbyn was "self-indulgent". She has not resigned from her job as a shadow minister.

But in an email to party members Ms Stevens said that during the last two weeks "it has become painfully obvious that we have been unable even to fulfil the very basic, day-to-day operation as the official opposition in Parliament."

She said: "This, at a time when the country is looking to us to show strong leadership, direction and protection for all our citizens as the discussions and decisions about leaving the EU start, is heart breaking.

"We cannot present ourselves as a government in waiting without leadership and a leadership team that commands the respect and support not only of members, elected representatives and affiliates, but Labour voters and potential Labour voters too."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jo Stevens said Owen Smith can unite Labour

Ms Stevens said: "I believe that Owen, who I have known and worked closely with for some years, is the best candidate to provide that leadership, respect and support not only of members, but elected representatives, affiliates, Labour voters and potential Labour voters, to unite our party and win the next general election."

Ms Stevens, who did not nominate Mr Corbyn in the leadership contest of 2015, said it is "absolutely right" that the current leader should be on the ballot paper.

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