Saturday 14 December 2019

Labour leader Corbyn threatens rebel MPs as coup attempt gathers speed

Leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn (C) leaves after delivering a speech outside parliament during a pro-Corbyn demonstration in central London. Getty Images
Leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn (C) leaves after delivering a speech outside parliament during a pro-Corbyn demonstration in central London. Getty Images

Ben Riley-Smith

As many as 150 British Labour MPs will vote today to oust Jeremy Corbyn as their party's leader. He has threatened to recruit 100,000 hard-left supporters in an attempt to cling on.

In a dramatic day at Westminster, Mr Corbyn was hit by dozens of resignations over his leadership as the total of frontbenchers to leave rose to 44 over the last 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 that the rebels were being unpatriotic by challenging him.

Later, in a heated private meeting with MPs, backbenchers openly mocked him as he attempted to claim that he could win a general election.

The row then spilled out into the corridors as MPs and Mr Corbyn's aides challenged each other over their behaviour in recent days.

John Woodcock MP 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 left in tears.

Yet the Labour leader remained defiant, with aides insisting that 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 which allow people to temporarily join Labour to recruit 100,000 left-wing activists who would 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 that it is ready to use its 120,000 supporters and 130 local groups to campaign for Mr Corbyn's re-election.

Today, days of infighting will come to a head as MPs decide in a secret ballot whether or not they have confidence in Mr Corbyn as Labour leader. Sources forecast that up to 70pc 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 non-binding 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.

Yesterday, Mr Corbyn was hit by resignations of another seven shadow cabinet ministers as well as 15 shadow ministers and seven parliamentary private secretaries.

He attempted to face down his critics in the Commons as MPs gathered for the first time since the UK voted 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 internal 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 the rebels.

At a gathering of the Parliamentary Labour Party later, Mr Corbyn was told to "take responsibility" for the failed EU referendum campaign as MPs openly criticised their leader.

Irish Independent

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