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Holborn and St Pancras backs Corbyn in spite of MP Starmer's support for Smith

PUBLISHED: 17:37 12 August 2016 | UPDATED: 14:02 15 August 2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith during one of their head-to-head debates

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith during one of their head-to-head debates

Members of the Holborn and St Pancras Labour Party last night gave their backing to Jeremy Corbyn - putting the branch at odds with its MP Keir Starmer, who is campaigning for Owen Smith to become leader.

Owen Smith MP supported by Camden leader Sarah Hayward and Keir Starmer MP at a rally on Saturday - but Jeremy Corbyn won the nomination of the Holborn and St Pancras Labour PartyOwen Smith MP supported by Camden leader Sarah Hayward and Keir Starmer MP at a rally on Saturday - but Jeremy Corbyn won the nomination of the Holborn and St Pancras Labour Party

At a packed meeting of the Holborn and St Pancras Constituency Labour Party (CLP), members endorsed Mr Corbyn over Mr Smith by 274 votes to 196 after listening to debate between supporters of each contender.

The Party faithful queued to get into St Pancras Church to hear Labour MP Kate Green make the case for Welshman Owen Smith, who currently lags well behind Mr Corbyn in the polls.

They also heard former Assembly Member Murad Qureshi speak on behalf of Mr Corbyn, before the debate was thrown open to the floor.

The meeting was members only, meaning journalists (other than members) were not allowed in - but many in attendance were happy to live tweet details of proceedings, including members of Camden Council.

Former MP Frank Dobson made his own appeal to members to back Smith, expressing concerns about the fitness for leadership of Islington North MP Mr Corbyn.

Former Camden Council leader Dame Jane Roberts urged members to back Smith, as did present leader Sarah Hayward - all to no avail with the Corbyn faithful.

Branch chair Patrick French said on Twitter that the debate had been “passionate and respectful”. Asked by another Tweeter whether the result was likely to lead to the deselection of Mr Starmer, Dr French replied: “There are honest differences of opinion in the CLP about the nomination but @Keir_Starmer is respected and strongly supported.”

Mr Starmer was one of dozens of MPs who walked out of Mr Corbyn’s team in the wake of the EU referendum result - a mass exodus widely regarded as a coup.

The Holborn and St Pancras MP said he quit as a shadow Home Office minister because he had lost confidence in Mr Corbyn’s ability to lead rather than because of major policy differences.

Mr Starmer urged his CLP to join him in backing Mr Smith - but, in common with neighbouring branch Hampstead and Kilburn, members went their own way and chose to endorse Mr Corbyn.

After the meeting, Mr Starmer told the Ham&High: “I congratulate Jeremy on the nomination. Although technically it has no direct impact on the result, it is symbolic.

“There is still a long way to go and it is important that all members listen carefully to what both Jeremy and Owen are saying. I am backing Owen because I think he can form an effective opposition, unify the party and win the next election.”

Mr Starmer also offered his congratulations to Mr Corbyn’s team on Twitter, and said: “Well done our CLP - huge attendance, passionate, respectful, but no abuse.”

The result is not a great surprise, as Holborn and St Pancras gave its nomination to Mr Corbyn last year, when Mr Starmer had campaigned for Andy Burnham.

Holborn and St Pancras recently passed a motion of no confidence in Mr Corbyn - but this was a “delegates only” vote, meaning far fewer members had their say than in last nigh’s ballot.

Mr Corbyn has now received the backing of 200 CLPs, to Smith’s 41 - but it is the wider membership, rather than those committed enough to attend party meetings, who will decide the outcome.

A High Court judge today ruled that some 130,000 members nationwide who recently joined Labour should not be allowed to vote - but Mr Corbyn remains the bookies’ odds-on favourite to win the leadership contest.

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