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Jeremy Corbyn Faces Labour Leadership Challenge As He's Blamed For EU Referendum Brexit Vote

Labour letters are 'in the bag' and ready to go

24/06/2016 10:15 | Updated 24 June 2016

Jeremy Corbyn is to face a leadership challenge as early as this weekend after furious Labour MPs blamed him for Brexit, HuffPost UK has been told.

The Labour leader is held responsible by many of his own party in Parliament for the huge vote in working class areas that took the UK out of the EU.

One senior Labour backbencher told HuffPost UK that the required 51 MPs and MEPs needed to back a new leadership contender were already ‘in the bag’.

Under the plan, once the individual letters are sent to party general secretary Iain McNicol, the party will then stage a special conference and ballot timed to have a new leader in place by September.

“We cannot go into this election with this bloke. All his comments about free movement in Europe showed a complete lack of understanding of the electorate and it was an incompetent campaign,” the MP said.

“There will be a new Tory leader by the autumn and the best guess is there may be a new Labour leader too.”

There are no plans for a single letter with 51 signatures, but rather individual letters sent in to McNicol - a move that formally triggers a leadership election.

However, veteran MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey have now submitted a separate letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) chairman John Cryer, calling for a 'motion of no confidence' in Corbyn at Monday's meeting in the Commons.

The motion would be followed by a ballot of the PLP on Tuesday, to give a symbolic show of collective criticism with the leadership.

Crucially, the ballot would be secret, so MPs won't risk the wrath of their local constituencie parties. The threat of an overwhelming motion of no confidence could force Corbyn to ponder his future this weekend, one MP told HuffPost.

"If he ignores that, then the individual letters will go in."

Matt Dunham/AP
Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan

Although Corbyn was elected by a landslide among party members in 2015, tensions have flared up repeatedly with those Labour MPs who believe he simply cannot win a general election.

The prospect of a possible ‘snap’ general election is terrifying many Labour MPs, who fear the up to 60 seats could be lost if Corbyn remains at the top of the party.

One Labour MP said letters would start to go in to McNicol this weekend and enough would be in place by early next week.

“The train will start leaving the station,” the MP warned his colleagues. “You can be on the train, be on the platform - or be under the train - by Monday. Some may want to jump into the guard’s van.”

The letters will nominate a single Labour candidate who will be “the voice of sensible Labour”. Whether their candidate end sup as a ‘stalking horse’ or the main contender depends on which others come forward.

Labour MPs are speculating frantically as to who should ‘go over the top’ and former Army major Dan Jarvis will inevitably be seen as one candidate, although Keir Starmer, Angela Eagle, Chris Leslie, Owen Smith and others are all seen as possibles. Other names are in the frame too.

But as well as being backed by an online campaign to show a 'vote of confidence' in Corbyn, leaders of several big trade unions came out and publicly backed him on Friday.

Peter Byrne/PA Wire
John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor

Some Labour MPs believe that Corbyn may not choose to fight in a leadership contest. “There’s a strong feeling among the trade union left who have been saying for several months that they can’t win with him,” one said. “Even [John] McDonnell can see he’s hopeless.”

Even if Corbyn wins the contest, the MPs believe he would be wiped out by a snap election and would face repeated challenges “Is he up for a relentless fight like that? I doubt it,” said one MP.

Many MPs felt that Corbyn badly misjudged the mood of Labour voters, by stressing the benefits of immigration and focusing instead on how the EU protected workers’ rights.

The Labour leader also suffered from his own long record of being opposed to Brussels as a ‘bosses’ Europe’, being seen as less than enthusiastic about the whole concept of the EU. In one interview he said he would mark the EU as ‘7/10’.  He also recently opposed plans for an EU-US free trade deal.

Corbyn’s key press chief Kevin Slocombe (second from right, above) is expected to take up a new post working for new Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, a move that would reinforce perceptions among MPs that the leadership team is vulnerable and splintering.

Strategy and communications director Seumas Milne (third from right) has denied rumours that he plans to quit before the 2020 election and return to the Guardian. 

Deputy leader Tom Watson welcomed David Cameron's resignation but praised the Labour campaign "led by Alan Johnson, with the help of our talented and hard-working party staff, set out clearly how a reformed EU would benefit working people".  

Although Watson failed to praise Corbyn in his statement, he suggested that "stability" was most needed, a clear hint that the leader should stay in post.

"Labour has lessons to learn and we will to continue to listen but our focus over the next few days must be to reassure voters, millions of whom are very concerned about our country's future," he said.

"They should know that we will work in Parliament to provide stability in a period of great instability for our country."

 

Some MPs believe that Shadow Chancellor McDonnell is being primed to step in should Corbyn call it a day, but MPs believe that he can be beaten by a single candidate who unites the party.

Polling shows that even among the new, more left-centre membership, McDonnell could come second in a two-horse race to a 'moderate' figure who can better unite all wings of the party.

Labour's stunned Shadow Cabinet met today to discuss the party's next steps and response to Cameron's resignation. 

A leaked memo sent to Labour MPs today asked them to insist Corbyn “led from the front in this campaign” when quizzed on TV.

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Jeremy Corbyn

The script, seen by The Huffington Post UK, also asks Labour MPs to claim “Corbyn has showed that he is far closer to the centre of gravity of the British public than other politicians”.

Many MPs felt that Corbyn badly misjudged the mood of Labour voters, by stressing the benefits of immigration and focusing instead on how the EU protected workers’ rights.

The Labour leader also suffered from his own long record of being opposed to Brussels as a ‘bosses’ Europe’, being seen as less than enthusiastic about the whole concept of the EU. In one interview he said he would mark the EU as ‘7/10’.  He also recently opposed plans for an EU-US free trade deal.

A key member of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign told HuffPostUK: “Jeremy hasn’t pulled his weight. Even if we had won, it would have been despite not because of him.”

One Labour MP said that Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell had failed to grasp that fears over unlimited migration from the EU was the big issue of the referendum, as well as a sense of patriotism.

“The EU referendum simply shone a light on how utterly out of touch Corbyn and McDonnell are with so many traditional Labour voters outside of London,” the MP said.

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