Jeremy Corbyn has let off the 10 frontbenchers and three party whips who defied the party line and voted against Brexit on Wednesday night with a formal written warning.
The Labour leader had suggested he would be “lenient” in dealing with the 52 Labour MPs, many of them from strongly remain-voting constituencies, who refused to toe the party line and vote for the government’s Brexit bill at its third reading.
But the scale of the rebellion raised questions about whether the party has become ungovernable in the wake of the referendum result. Backbencher Chris Leslie, who refused to back the bill, said: “Collective unity, especially among the ‘payroll’ vote, ought to be a trait for any putative government-in-waiting. In a parliamentary system, the team is everything”.
Corbyn met his chief whip, seasoned party veteran Nick Brown, on Friday to discuss how to discipline wayward MPs. Brown believes the Brexit vote was one of the most momentous in many MPs’ parliamentary careers, and was said by allies to have counselled a cautious approach.
All MPs who defied the whip will now be sent a written warning, and Labour sources made clear that frontbenchers would also be given a clear signal that if they defied the whip again they would automatically be sacked. Some have been expecting to lose their jobs since voting against the second reading of the bill last week.
Corbyn had made clear that MPs would not be allowed to defy the whip and remain in the shadow…