Jeremy Corbyn’s critics warned that they will wage a “war of attrition” until they force him out of his job after he suggested that Labour MPs who refuse to back him could be sacked by local party activists.
Senior Labour MPs rejected Mr Corbyn’s plea to rally behind them if he defeats his challenger Owen Smith in the September leadership election. They told The Independent they are prepared to trigger another leadership election next year – and even a further contest the following year. Many of the MPs who have quit the Labour frontbench because they have no confidence in Mr Corbyn will not return if he defeats Mr Smith.
One former shadow Cabinet member said: “There will be a process of attrition. Most of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will not serve under Jeremy. His position is untenable. The sooner he realises that, the better.” Another Labour MP said: “If we don’t win [the leadership] this year, we will do it again next year and, if necessary, the year after. At some point before the next general election, he will go. The only question is when.”
The threats by the pro and anti-Corbyn camps raised the prospect of Labour’s civil war continuing after the leadership election. Corbyn aides insisted that he was merely outlining Labour’s current policy, which allows local parties to trigger a reselection contest if they want their MP to face competition before being chosen to stand at a general election. But MPs claimed he was giving local activists the green light to purge MPs who refused to join his frontbench team.
At the launch of his re-election campaign, Mr Corbyn said: “At the moment, selection takes place when there is a trigger ballot system, where a constituency party decides whether or not it wishes to have a full selection process.”
Constituency boundary changes to take effect in 2020 will give many local Labour parties the chance to ditch their MP without changing Labour rules to bring in mandatory reselection – a change that some left-wing activists and the Unite union want to see. Mr Corbyn said: “The sitting MP for any substantial part of the new boundary would have an opportunity to put their name forward. So there would be a full and open selection process for every constituency Labour party throughout the whole of the UK.”
Mr Corbyn said he would offer the “hand of friendship” to the MPs who had quit the Labour frontbench but insisted the PLP must respect the result of the leadership election. “It's the job, it's the duty, it's the responsibility of every Labour MP to get behind the party at that point and put it there against the Tories about the different, fairer kind of Britain that we can build together,” he said.
He insisted: “This party is going places. This party is strong. This party is capable of winning a general election.”
Later Mr Corbyn said: “It is not up to me who is a candidate or the MP in any constituency.” But he hoped there would be a process that “strengthens democracy.”
Mr Smith, who resigned as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary last month, would remain on the backbenches if he fails to oust the Labour leader. He argued that Mr Corbyn’s remarks about reselecting MPs was at odds with his promise to bring in a new politics. Mr Smith said: “It didn’t seem very friendly, kind or gentle to me for Jeremy to threaten everybody who works for him with the sack. It’s not much of an employer who says ‘work for me, work harder or I am going to sack you all’, which is effectively what he is doing today.
“I think we have just got to bring the party back together. Jeremy, I don’t think, is prepared to compromise in any way, shape or form. I don’t think he feels he can bring the party back together. That’s why he is talking about reselections. I think he is reconciled, he is fatalistic about the prospect of the party splitting apart and being destroyed. He just wants to control the Labour Party.”
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.”
Corbyn allies are increasingly confident he will be re-elected after more than 180,000 people paid £25 in 48 hours this week to become registered supporters and get a vote in the election. Team Corbyn believes that the majority of them will back him. But the anti-Corbyn Saving Labour group insists that it signed up many of the supporters.Reuse content