Jeremy Corbyn could be hit by a wave of resignations by moderate frontbenchers in an attempt to destabilise his leadership and pave the way for a coup aimed at ousting him.
Some Labour frontbenchers who agreed to serve under left-wing party leader are determined to topple him well before the 2020 general election and have begun private talks about their tactics. One option is an orchestrated series of resignations if Labour does badly in Mr Corbyn’s first major electoral test – the contests next May for London Mayor; the Scottish Parliament; Welsh Assembly and local authorities.
“There will be an uprising in the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] at some point,” one Labour MP told The Independent. “But we have to get our timing right. We may only have one shot.”
Concerted resignations by several ministers and parliamentary aides close to Gordon Brown in 2006 helped to force Tony Blair to reveal his departure timetable as Prime Minister.
Some Blairites hope that a similar frontbench revolt would show that Mr Corbyn cannot govern the party and they hope to force a leadership contest at next autumn’s Labour conference. But other moderates are more cautious, warning that premature action could backfire. Without significant grassroots support for a change of leader, they fear, Mr Corbyn or another left-wing figure would be elected. Another MP said: “We will need to carry enough party members with us. Otherwise it would end in disaster.”
A walk-out could by several Shadow Cabinet ministers could be triggered if Labour decided to back its leader’s opposition to renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system. Only four other Shadow Cabinet members have backed Mr Corbyn’s unilateralist stance but it was endorsed on 1 November by the Scottish Labour Party.
In another sign of plotting against Mr Corbyn, moderates seized control of the PLP’s 17 committees which shadow government departments when MPs elected their chairmen on 4 November. Eleven of the posts went to MPs who nominated the Blairite candidate Liz Kendall in this summer’s Labour leadership election.
The new list of chairmen has been dubbed the “shadow Shadow Cabinet” and the “leadership in exile” and is seen as a snub to Mr Corbyn. It includes senior figures who refused to serve in Mr Corbyn’s frontbench team. Among them are Tristram Hunt, the former shadow Education Secretary; Chris Leslie, the former shadow Chancellor who has attacked “Corbynomics”; Caroline Flint, the former shadow Energy Secretary; Emma Reynolds, the former shadow Communities Secretary and Ivan Lewis, the former Northern Ireland spokesman. The chairmen also include critics of Mr Corbyn such as Mike Gapes, Ian Austin and John Woodcock.
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
1/11 He called Hezbollah and Hamas ‘friends’
True. In a speech made to the Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Mr Corbyn called representatives from both groups “friends” after inviting them to Parliament. He later told Channel 4 he wanted both groups, who have factions designated as international terror organisations, to be “part of the debate” for the Middle East peace process. “I use (the word ‘friends’) in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk,” he added. “Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No.”
2/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy’
Partly false. David Cameron used this as a line of attack at the Conservative Party conference but appears to have left out all context from Mr Corbyn’s original remarks. In an 2011 interview on Iranian television, the then-backbencher said the fact the al-Qaeda leader was not put on trial was the tragedy, continuing: “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”
3/11 He is ‘haunted’ by the legacy of his ‘evil’ great-great-grandfather
False. A Daily Express exposé revealed that the Labour leader’s ancestor, James Sargent, was the “despotic” master of a Victorian workhouse. Addressing the report at the Labour conference, Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of him before, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time and having a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.”
4/11 Jeremy Corbyn raised a motion about ‘pigeon bombs’ in Parliament
This one is true. On 21 May 2004, Mr Corbyn raised an early day motion entitled “pigeon bombs”, proposing that the House register being “appalled but barely surprised” that MI5 reportedly proposed to load pigeons with explosives as a weapon. The motion continued: “The House… believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.” It was not carried.
5/11 He rides a Communist bicycle
False. A report in The Times referred to Mr Corbyn, known for his cycling, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” earlier this year. “Less thorough journalists might have referred to it as just a bicycle, but no, so we have to conclude that whenever we see somebody on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao,” he later joked.
6/11 'Jeremy Corbyn will appoint a special minister for Jews'
False so far. The Sun report in December was allegedly based on a “rumour” passed to the paper by a Daily Express columnist who has written pieces critical of the Labour leader in the past. The minister did not materialise in his shadow cabinet.
7/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn wishes Britain would abolish its Army’
False. Another gem from The Sun took comments made at a Hiroshima remembrance parade in August 2012 where Mr Corbyn supported Costa Rica’s move to abolish it armed forces. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world…abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army,” he added. The caveat that “every politician” must take the step suggests Mr Corbyn does not support UK disarmament just yet.
8/11 Jeremy Corbyn stole sandwiches meant for veterans
False. The Guido Fawkes blog claimed that the Labour leader took sandwiches meant for veterans at at Battle of Britain memorial service in September but a photo later emerged showing him being handed one by Costa volunteers, who later confirmed they were given to all guests.
9/11 He missed the induction into the Queen’s privy council
True. After much speculation about Mr Corbyn’s republican views and willingness to bow to the monarch, his office confirmed that he did not attend the official induction to the privy council because of a prior engagement, but did not rule out joining the body.
10/11 Jeremy Corbyn refuses to sing the national anthem.
Partly true. The Labour leader was filmed standing in silence as God Save the Queen was sung at a Battle of Britain remembrance service but will reportedly sing it in future. Mr Corbyn was elusive on the issue in an interview, saying he would show memorials “respect in the proper way”, but sources said he would sing the anthem at future occasions.
11/11 He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese
True. The group lists its purpose as the following: “To increase awareness of issues surrounding the dairy industry and focus on economic issues affecting the dairy industry and producers.”
One moderate denied any plot, pointing out that most left-wing MPs had now joined the frontbench, leaving the field open to Mr Corbyn’s opponents. Fewer than 20 of Labour’s 232 MPs voted for him in this year’s contest.
A left-wing MP said: “This is kamikaze politics from by right-wingers. People should respect Jeremy’s overwhelming mandate from party members, stop plotting and turn their fire on the Tories. If they think that plotting will help win over the members who rejected them, they are mistaken.”
Mr Corbyn’s allies insist the elections were a matter for the PLP and that he is be happy to work with the chairmen it chose. The Labour leader has begun a series of one-to-one meetings with his backbenchers after coming in for criticism at the PLP’s weekly meetings. Aides say this shows he is determined to be “inclusive” as he promised when he became leader in September , and to reach out and unite his party.