POLITICS

'Jeremy Corbyn To Quit' Rumour Is Untrue, Insists Shadow Cabinet Ally Ian Lavery

Claims derided as ‘Something-I-Made-Up-Earlier-Dot-Com’

08/02/2017 10:10 GMT | Updated 08/02/2017 14:24 GMT

Claims that Jeremy Corbyn is preparing to quit as Labour leader have been firmly denied by his senior advisers and Shadow Cabinet allies.

Speculation about Corbyn’s future sparked into life after it was suggested he had given a “departure date” to his inner circle of advisers.

But a Labour spokesman said he had “never” discussed such an exit timing or a handover to a successor - and would remain in place until at least the next general election.

Ian Lavery, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, also told HuffPost UK the rumours were untrue.

“The claim about any date or handover is completely untrue and is in the realm of the ‘Something-I-Made-Up-Earlier-Dot-Com’ department,” a senior Labour spokesman said.

“Remember he was only elected for a second time by a landslide and with a bigger majority four months ago as leader of the Labour party. He quite clearly has the support of the Labour Party.

“And it’s quite clear he will continue as leader until the general election.”

Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick
Shadow Cabinet minister Ian Lavery

“There’s not a grain of truth to the rumours about Jeremy stepping down,” Lavery said earlier.

“Lots of gossip happens around this place, but we know from previous rumours that it’s not always reliable.”

And sources close to the party leadership added that there was “no truth to it at all, [it’s] just salacious PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) gossip”.

The Labour spokesman also denied a Private Eye report that Corbyn had a deal to take time off in lieu for any weekend days that he works.

“It’s entirely untrue. The idea is completely preposterous, he works round the clock with an absolutely punishing schedule.” the spokesman said. “Another from the ‘Something-I-Made-Up-Earlier-Dot-Com’ department.”

Manchester Evening News social affairs editor Jennifer Williams triggered the latest bout of speculation after tweeting that a ‘single source’ had said Corbyn was planning his exit from the top job.

Many Labour MPs are hoping Corbyn does step aside if polls continue to show that the party is way behind the Tories and has no hope of winning a general election under his leadership.

Labour faces two difficult by-elections this month in Copeland and Stoke-On-Trent Central, with the Tories and UKIP threatening to take the seats.

HuffPost understands that some close to Corbyn are worried about the strain that the job has put on him, but some members of his top team insist he still has a strong appetite to lead the Opposition.

Corbyn won his second leadership election landslide last September and still retains the loyalty of many of the 500,000-strong party membership, which has soared since he took over.

The Labour leader is 67 and will be nearly 71 by the time of the 2020 general election. Friends say he is as energetic as MPs much younger than him, but others suggest he may want to hand over the reins if he could find a suitable successor.

PA/PA Wire
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

A new ICM/Guardian opinion poll on Tuesday showed a continuing gap between Labour and the Tories. The Conservatives were on 42%, a huge 15 points ahead of Labour on 27%.

One of Corbyn’s closest allies Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell last week claimed that the party would turn around the polls within the next 12 months. He has also suggested that winning by-elections is less easy given the context of Brexit.

However, some in the party suspect that the Left are gearing up to find a successor to Corbyn, and want to give hopefuls such as Rebecca Long-Bailey more time to build their profile over the next year.

But the leader faces a fresh headache on Wednesday with the threat of more resignations from his Shadow Cabinet over the party’s support for the Government’s Brexit bill.

Yui Mok/PA Wire
Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis

Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis is poised to resign or be sacked if he votes against the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, following strong pressure from constituents to keep opposing Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ plan.

Left-wing journalist Paul Mason has said Corbyn does not connect with Labour’s working class core vote, and has declared that Lewis is “good enough for me”.