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Corbyn critic John Woodcock challenged to call by-election after quitting Labour

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn suggested the Barrow MP had abandoned the party and should put his decision to the public vote.

Former Labour MP and Jeremy Corbyn critic John Woodcock has been challenged to call a by-election after quitting the party with a scathing attack on the opposition leader.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn accused the Barrow and Furness MP of deciding to “abandon” the party, after he called the Labour leader a “clear risk to UK national security as prime minister”.

Mr Woodcock, 39, had been sitting as an independent since having the Labour whip withdrawn in April pending investigation of an allegation of sexual harassment.

In his resignation letter he said that, under Mr Corbyn, Labour was no longer “the broad church it has historically been” and there was little chance of returning it to an “inclusive, mainstream electoral force”.

Speaking to reporters after Prime Minister’s Questions, in which Mr Woodcock asked a question regarding trains, a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: “In normal circumstances, if you stand for election on one platform and then decide to abandon the platform you stood on, basic rules of democratic accountability suggest that you should then put that to the electorate.”

Mr Woodcock had a majority of 209 at the 2017 general election.

He denies allegations over supposedly inappropriate texts and emails to a former female staff member between 2014 and 2016.

In his resignation letter, he dismissed the party’s disciplinary process against him as “rigged” and said there was “clear evidence that the process has been manipulated for factional purposes”.

He accused Labour general secretary Jennie Formby of overturning a previous disciplinary panel ruling and said Mr Corbyn had refused to appoint an independent investigator to rule on his case.

And he said he had obtained emails showing that senior party figures were determined to prevent him standing in future elections as a Labour candidate because of his views on Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

Mr Woodcock said it was “not credible” for him to expect a fair hearing from Labour, and that he would now seek an independent process to hear the case.

His departure from the party prompted a backlash from supporters of the Labour leader, with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey saying it was “no big deal”.

The union leader added: “He resigned from Labour’s values a long time ago.”

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman insisted that the disciplinary process in Mr Woodcock’s case was carried out in a “completely rigorous and fair” way and he was not aware of any incriminating emails.

But he said that Mr Woodcock’s resignation meant that “the process cannot be pursued and accountability and recourse for the complainant can’t be achieved through Labour Party processes any more”.

Labour’s policy on sexual harassment cases states that cases are anonymised before being assessed by a panel of three members of the ruling National Executive Committee.

If this panel judges that there is a case to answer, they refer it to the disciplinary National Constitutional Committee, which is separate from the party leadership.

A former aide to Gordon Brown during his time as prime minister and shadow transport minister under Ed Miliband, Mr Woodcock has been one of the harshest internal critics of Mr Corbyn’s leadership of Labour.

He clashed with Mr Corbyn over his stance on nuclear weapons and anti-Semitism.

In 2017 he stood for re-election in the Cumbria seat he has represented since 2010, but said he did not believe Mr Corbyn was fit to serve as prime minister and would not countenance voting to put him into 10 Downing Street.

In his letter to Mr Corbyn, he wrote: “I have promised to fight for local jobs, promote a credible alternative government, protect the shipyard and ensure the safety of my constituents through strong defence and national security.

“I now believe more strongly than ever that you have made the Labour Party unfit to deliver those objectives and would pose a clear risk to UK national security as prime minister.

“The party for which I have campaigned since I was a boy is no longer the broad church it has always historically been. Anti-Semitism is being tolerated and Labour has been taken over at nearly every level by the hard left, far beyond the dominance they achieved at the height of 1980s militancy.

“There is little chance of returning the Labour Party to the inclusive, mainstream electoral force my constituents desperately need. In these circumstances, I can no longer justify engaging in a rigged process to be re-admitted to it.”

Mr Woodcock said he will continue to serve as independent MP for Barrow and Furness and will “work with the Government when it is trying to do the right thing, and will also work with the many good colleagues who are still trying to do their best in Labour”.

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