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Sheffield MP resigns from Labour frontbench

An armed forces bill has sparked controversy in the party as 18 of its MPs voted against the second reading, leading to the resignation of three junior shadow ministers.

Olivia Blake MP

Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam.

Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake has resigned from her junior roles after breaking the Labour whip to vote against the second reading of the overseas operations bill.

The MP said she will continue to “fight for the Labour government this country desperately needs” but will step down from her roles as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) for the Shadow Digital Culture Media and Sport and Shadow Scotland teams.

In a statement yesterday, Blake said: “Throughout my political life, I have been a strong advocate for human rights, so last night’s vote was highly personal and one of conscience for me.

“I opposed the Bill because it includes a strong presumption against prosecuting military personnel for torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and potentially puts us on a collision course with the International Criminal Court.”

Beth Winter and Nadia Whittome have also been removed from their junior roles after joining 15 other Labour MPs in defying the whip, which asked for MPs to abstain on the bill. Labour backbenchers who voted against the bill included Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Diane Abbott.

The overseas operations bill aims to introduce a presumption against prosecution for British soldiers serving abroad and has caused controversy with claims that it would make it harder to prosecute members of the military for past actions.

It is understood that the Labour stance was to abstain on the bill and to amend it at committee stage. The three Labour PPSs were allegedly told that if they voted against the bill they would need to resign from their roles.

Blake said: “I think the premise of the government’s proposals are wrong and I don’t believe they can be amended to fix the fundamental flaws in the Bill, which is why I opposed the legislation at this point.

“I’m sad to leave my frontbench roles, but I’ll continue to support Keir Starmer from the backbenches, represent my constituency to the best of my ability and fight for the Labour government this country desperately needs.”

The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats joined the 18 Labour rebels in voting against and the bill, which passed at second reading by 332 to 77.

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