FORMER shadow business secretary Angela Eagle looks set to mount a challenge on Thursday (June 30) to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a leadership election appears imminent in the divided party.
More than half the shadow cabinet has resigned since the weekend, following the result of the EU referendum, when Britons voted to leave the European Union.
Corbyn is popular with the party’s membership but Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said the beleaguered leader refuses to resign despite the motion of no-confidence passed by MPs.
“It’s a great tragedy,” Watson told the BBC. “He does have a members’ mandate but those members who joined the political party know that you also need a parliamentary mandate if you are to form a government.”
Asked if he had told Corbyn to resign, Watson said: “I’m afraid Jeremy was not willing to discuss that with me so I’m assuming he remains in office.”
“It looks like the Labour Party is heading for some form of contested election,” he said, adding “I won’t run.”
On Tuesday (28), 172 party MPs voted against Corbyn in a non-binding confidence motion, with 40 in favour out of a total of 229 in the Commons.
Corbyn insisted he would not stand down. “I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy,” the 67-year-old said in a statement.
A veteran socialist and eurosceptic who voted against EU membership in a 1975 referendum, Corbyn has come under heavy criticism from pro EU MPs for his lukewarm campaigning in favour of Britain staying in.
Many experts blamed the strong anti-EU vote in Labour heartlands in northern England on Corbyn. But
Corbyn blamed Conservative austerity measures for creating disenchantment in many working-class areas and said the media had not covered Labour’s referendum campaign, focusing instead on rifts within the ruling Conservatives.
Seema Malhotra, who quit the shadow cabinet last Sunday (June 26), told Eastern Eye: “Jeremy has taken the party as far as he can, and we now need a fresh start.
“I’m proud to have worked in Jeremy’s team to achieve what we all want to see: a fairer society and a
more equally prosperous Britain. But the challenges we are now facing are growing. Britain is a divided country and Labour is a divided party.”
She added: “We face a period of economic and political turmoil, the prospect of the election of a new, right-wing Tory prime minister and an early general election.
“In the face of these new challenges the Labour Party needs strong leadership so we can build the bridges we need across our party, be an effective opposition and rebuild confidence in
Labour amongst voters.
“For all his qualities, I don’t believe Jeremy is that leader.”