Corbyn faces leadership coup from 150 Labour MPs
AS MANY as 150 MPs will today vote to oust Jeremy Corbyn, as the Labour leader threatened to recruit 100,000 hard-Left supporters to cling on to power.
In a dramatic day in Westminster, Mr Corbyn was hit by dozens of resignations over his leadership as the total of front-benchers to leave rose to 44 over the past two days.
The Labour leader faced heckles of “resign” from his own MPs as he attempted to face down the coup in the House of Commons by claiming rebels were being unpatriotic by challenging him.
Later, in a heated private meeting with MPs, backbenchers openly mocked him as he attempted to claim he can win a general election.
The row spilled out into the corridors as MPs and Mr Corbyn’s aides challenged each other over their behaviour in recent days. Moderate MP John Woodcock accused the leader’s office of spreading “lies and distortion”, while Corbyn aides challenged rebels to call a contest “tomorrow” because they are so confident of victory.
Angela Eagle, who resigned as shadow business secretary yesterday, is now considering launching a leadership challenge as contenders began sounding out colleagues for support.
Mr Corbyn was yesterday told by Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader, that he had lost the support of his MPs and should prepare for a leadership contest.
Five previously supportive shadow cabinet ministers also resigned yesterday after a tense meeting with Mr Corbyn, with one of the Left-wingers being reduced to tears. Yet the Labour leader remained defiant, with aides insisting he would not be toppled by the “corridor coup” and challenging rivals to beat him in a formal leadership contest.
They are ready to exploit party rules that allow people to temporarily join Labour for £3 to recruit 100,000
Left-wing activists who would primarily back Mr Corbyn in a vote.
Momentum, the pro-Corbyn activist group, yesterday gathered more a thousand supporters to Parliament Square as a show of support for the Labour leader, chanting “Corbyn Stay”.
It is understood the body is ready to use its 120,000 supporters and 130 local groups to campaign for Mr Corbyn’s re-election, with a source saying: “We are ready to spring into action.”
Today, days of infighting will come to a head as MPs decide in a secret ballot whether they have confidence in Mr Corbyn as Labour leader. Sources forecast that up to 70 per cent of MPs – equivalent to around 150 – will have voted with the motion of no confidence when polling closes at 4pm.
However, the result will be nonbinding and Mr Corbyn is expected to fight on, challenging rebels to gather more than 51 MP or MEP signatures that would trigger a formal contest.
On Monday, Mr Corbyn was hit by resignations of another seven shadow cabinet ministers as well as fifteen shadow ministers and seven parliamentary private secretaries. The La- bour leader attempted to face down his critics in the Commons as MPs gathered for the first time since the country decided to vote for Brexit.
Mr Corbyn told the Commons: “Our country is divided, and the country will thank neither the Government Benches in front of me nor the Opposition Benches behind for indulging in inter- nal factional manoeuvring at this time.” The comment provoked anger form the Labour MPs behind Mr Corbyn, with one calling out for him to “resign”. One Left-winger also swore at rebels as the party’s crisis played out in public.
At a gathering of the Parliamentary Labour party later in the day, Mr Corbyn was told to “take responsibility” for the failed EU referendum campaign as MPs criticised their leader.
Ms Eagle, the MP for Wallasey, twice refused to rule out challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership on live radio and is understood to be sounding out colleagues. She appeared close to tears as she discussed her “emotional” decision to stand down from the front bench and urged Mr Corbyn to quit for the good of the party.
Seen as being on the soft-Left, Ms Eagle is said by supporters to be someone who can win over party members who backed Mr Corbyn while bringing the experience needed to handle the fallout from the Brexit vote. Former frontbenchers have told The
Daily Telegraph that Ms Eagle is expected to stand and said she will win the support of many senior Left-wing MPs.
Jeremy Corbyn addresses a crowd of supporters at a Momentum rally in Parliament Square