Thursday 23 November 2017

Corbyn pleads with Labour to 'come together' - after he is told: quit or be challenged

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he is 'ready to reach out' to his enemies in the Labour party. Photo: Rick Findler/PA Wire
Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he is 'ready to reach out' to his enemies in the Labour party. Photo: Rick Findler/PA Wire

Ben Riley-Smith

Jeremy Corbyn issued a plea for Labour to "come together" under his leadership yesterday - just hours after Angela Eagle gave an ultimatum for him to resign or face a challenge.

In a day of escalating party tensions, Neil Kinnock, the former party leader, compared the current crisis to the splits in the 1980s in a rousing plea for party unity that left MPs in tears.

A still from the video issued by British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. Photo: PA
A still from the video issued by British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. Photo: PA

Tom Watson, the party's deputy leader, will today urge trade union bosses to abandon their support of Mr Corbyn in a "last throw of the dice" after the pair failed to reach a compromise during face-to-face peace talks.

Mr Watson told MPs last night that the "window is closing" on the chance of a compromise that would see Mr Corbyn step down of his own accord.

Watch: VIDEO - McDonnell: Politicians who whipped up racism need to take responsibility

Earlier in the day, Ms Eagle had gone public with her leadership ambitions by declaring that Mr Corbyn must quit "soon" or face a formal challenge.

"I have the support to run and resolve this impasse and I will do so if Jeremy doesn't take action soon," the former shadow business secretary said.

She claimed party members from across the country had been urging her to stand, saying: "It's a week since Jeremy lost that vote of no confidence and there are many other people up and down the country wanting him to consider his position."

Mr Watson and Mr Corbyn held a private meeting without aides in an attempt to broker a deal to end the crisis.

However, the failure to come to an agreement was evident by the afternoon as Mr Corbyn addressed party members in a defiant video message promising to carry on despite the opposition of MPs. He said: "I was very honoured to be elected leader of our party with 60pc of the votes. I have a huge responsibility and I am carrying on with that responsibility."

Mr Corbyn added: "When we do things together we are very strong. Now is the time to come together."

The message was likened to a "hostage video" by social media users due to Mr Corbyn's tired appearance and the fact he sat alone in the footage.


Meanwhile, the exodus from Labour's front bench continued as Fabian Hamilton, the shadow Europe minister and the most senior Jewish figure on the party's front bench, became the 65th person to quit Mr Corbyn's team since the EU referendum.

The Labour leadership's failure to find MPs willing to serve mean four shadow cabinet ministers are now "double jobbing" by filling two roles.

Elsewhere, Momentum, the pro-Corbyn activist group, said it had seen its membership double to 12,000 in the past week, while supporters were giving more than £11,000 per day to the organisation. Momentum has held more than 30 rallies and public meetings across Britain, according to a spokesman, with the group rallying behind the Labour leader under the slogan "keep Corbyn".

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn spells out why he should remain Labour leader - but misspells own name in statement

The tensions came to a head last night as Mr Kinnock delivered a "barnstorming speech" calling for party unity that reportedly left Lucy Powell, the former education secretary and a critic of Mr Corbyn, in tears.

The peer referenced a speech in the 1980s he gave warning that Labour was on the "abyss" and suggested the current situation was worse.

Ms Eagle is expected to trigger a leadership contest after debate about the Chilcot report, which is published tomorrow, has dropped from the headlines.

Owen Smith, the former shadow work and pensions secretary, is also said to be considering a leadership bid. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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