Friday 23 February 2018

Corbyn vows to fight 'heave' as Labour edges towards split

Contender: Angela Eagle and Jeremy Corbyn Photo: PA/PA Wire
Contender: Angela Eagle and Jeremy Corbyn Photo: PA/PA Wire

Estelle Shirbon

Angela Eagle, a senior Labour MP in Britain, is to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the party leadership.

Eagle said in a statement: "On Monday, I will announce my candidature for leader of the Labour Party. I will explain my vision for the country and the difference a strong Labour Party can make."

She said Corbyn had failed to lead Labour MPs as an organised and effective force to hold the Conservative government to account.

Discontent with Corbyn has been simmering for months among Labour MPs.

Many were unconvinced of his leadership ability and their misgivings exploded into open crisis after the 'Leave' result in the EU referendum, with mass resignations from his shadow cabinet team and a motion of no confidence that was adopted by most Labour MPs.

The party's official stance before the referendum had been to support staying in the EU, but critics accused Corbyn of campaigning so half-heartedly that many Labour voters were unaware of the party's position or ignored it and voted Leave.

Corbyn's critics say that with Britain poised to negotiate an exit from the EU that risks being more painful than many voters had anticipated, Labour needs to present a strong, united alternative.

A spokesman for Corbyn said after Eagle's announcement that he would contest any leadership challenge.

"Jeremy is committed to fulfilling all his responsibilities as democratically elected leader and will not betray the hundreds of thousands of people who elected him for a different direction for the Labour Party and a different kind of politics," the spokesman said.

Media reports in recent days have suggested that there has been a new spike in Labour membership numbers since the Brexit vote, but it is unclear whether people were signing up to vote for or against Corbyn in the next leadership contest.

Eagle, who has been an MP since 1992, held several junior ministerial posts during the 13 years that Labour was in office under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

She is deemed more centrist than Corbyn and more likely to have broader appeal beyond the party membership.

Eagle was business and trade policy chief in Corbyn's team until she quit on June 27 as part of the wave of resignations that plunged Labour into disarray.

Her statement on Saturday came after deputy Labour leader Tom Watson had announced that talks between key lawmakers and representatives of the trade unions, which support Labour financially and are allies of Corbyn, had broken down.

It is unclear what will happen to Labour if Corbyn is re-elected by grassroots members after the vast majority of the MPs rejected him as leader. There has been speculation that the party may split.

Sunday Independent

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