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Diane Abbott appointed shadow health secretary

Hackney MP Diane Abbott has been appointed shadow health secretary after Heidi Alexander quit her post amid the political fallout from the EU referendum vote.

Ms Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and a longtime ally of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been a shadow junior health minister, and is currently serving as  shadow secretary for international development.

Posting a picture of her resignation letter on Twitter yesterday, Ms Alexander said: ‘It is with a heavy heart that I have this morning resigned from the Shadow Cabinet.’

In the letter to Mr Corbyn, she expressed that she believes the Labour Party needs new leadership.

She said: ‘As much as I respect you as a man of principle, I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding and I believe that if we are to form the next Government, a change of leadership is essential.

The BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee chair Dr Johann Malawana reacted to the announcement, posting on Twitter: ‘Am so sad to read this. [Heidi Alexander] has been such an incredible advocate for the NHS & its staff. Sad day.’

Ms Alexander is one of 12 members of the shadow cabinet to resign, including four shadow ministers, following Mr Corbyn’s sacking of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.

Mr Corbyn now faces a vote of no confidence of Labour MPs but has said he will not give up his post.

He said in a statement that he ‘regretted’ there had been resignations from his shadow cabinet but that he would not ‘betray the trust of’ the ‘hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters’ who voted him on last year ‘with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics’.

He added: ‘Those who want to change Labour’s leadership will have to stand in a democratic election, in which I will be a candidate.’

Former health secretary Andy Burnham, a member of the Labour shadow cabinet, gave his support to Mr Corbyn.

He said: ‘At an uncertain time like this for our country, I cannot see how it makes sense for the Opposition to plunge itself into a civil war.

‘I have never taken part in a coup against any Leader of the Labour Party and I am not going to start now.

‘It is for our members to decide who leads our party and ten months ago they gave Jeremy Corbyn a resounding mandate. I respect that and them.’

Meanwhile, Ms Abbott said: ‘Criticising Corbyn’s leadership after denying him cooperation is undemocratic, cynical and dishonest.’

During the pensions dispute in 2012, Ms Abbott told Pulse that there would be ‘public support’ for a day of action, and that Labour would have ‘a lot of sympathy for the BMA’.

However, Mr Burnham later rolled back from Ms Abbott’s comments, and urged doctors to ‘pull back from any form of action that damages patient care, including disruption to non-urgent care.’