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Former Labour MP says he’s ‘proud’ to have helped stop Jeremy Corbyn win election

Lord Walney in the House of Lords - Credit: Parliament Live

A former Labour frontbencher used his maiden speech in the House of Lords to express his pride at having helped to stop Jeremy Corbyn win the general election.

John Woodcock, who sits as Lord Walney in the upper chamber, also revealed his criticism of the ex-party leader, had strained long-term friendships and also led to a number of “frosty encounters” in the corridors following his return to Westminster.

The non-affiliated peer said much of the last few years had been “difficult”, but now welcomed the chance to leave behind party politics and “start a new chapter”.

Lord Walney served as MP for Barrow and Furness, where nuclear submarines are built, between 2010 and 2019 before stepping down.

He was one of the harshest critics of Corbyn’s leadership, clashing with him over his stance on nuclear weapons and anti-Semitism.

He said he did not believe Corbyn was fit to serve as prime minister and would vote Conservative at the last election, urging others to do so too.

The former shadow minister had sat as an independent in parliament after having the Labour whip withdrawn in April 2018 pending investigation of an allegation, which he denied, of sexual harassment.

Making his maiden speech in the Lords as peers debated legislation that would allow undercover agents to break the law, Lord Walney referred to the “political journey” that had brought him to the upper house.

Without naming Corbyn, he said: “I am proud of the small contribution that I made to stopping what would otherwise have been inflicted on the British people had the general election last year gone the other way.

“That has strained some lifelong friendships and indeed it has led to one or two frosty encounters in the corridors of this place.

“But I am happy now to be given the opportunity to put party politics behind me and start a new chapter.

“Much of the last few years have been difficult, but they have underlined what is a central tenet of my faith that no one party and no one group within a party hold the monopoly of wisdom.”

He added: “We are all flawed human beings, who are mostly trying to do our best in a complex and conflicted world.

“I will always endeavour to do my best in this place and it is deeply humbling to be given that chance.”

Former Labour minister Lord Rooker praised the peer for his actions at the last election, saying: “I understand he performed a national service.”