Angela Eagle: The MP tipped to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of Labour

Ms Eagle resigned from Mr Corbyn's cabinet after the Brexit vote. Now she is believed to be lining herself up to be his successor and has reportedly secured the backing of 51 MPs and MEPs 

Heather Saul
Thursday 30 June 2016 10:40
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Angela Eagle is believed to have enough support to make a formal challenge
Angela Eagle is believed to have enough support to make a formal challenge

Angela Eagle is expected to formally challenge Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of Labour today as the party edges closer to imploding.

The former shadow business secretary joined a number of frontbenchers walking out this week after the seismic EU referendum prompted unheeded calls for Mr Corbyn to resign.

Ms Eagle is the Labour MP for Wallasey and considered a ‘soft left’ political figure, a position she is expected to use to present herself as a unity candidate for a party falling into a state of disarray.

Background

Born in Bridlington and hailing from a working-class family, Ms Eagle has a twin sister, Maria, the MP for Garston and Halewood who resigned from her position as the shadow culture secretary three days ago. Ms Eagle is the oldest twin by 15 minutes and a former under-18s British chess champion. They both attended Oxford where Ms Eagle read PPE.

Their mother died when they were 25. In interviews, Ms Eagle has praised her mother’s determination to ensure her daughters had the opportunities presented by an education she was denied.

 Maria Eagle

“She was a very working class woman who had passed the 11-plus, but her family could not afford the uniform,” Ms Eagle told The Telegraph. "She never fitted in at the grammar school, so she left at 14 to work in a biscuit factory. She was determined we wouldn’t make the mistakes that she did.”

She is openly gay and married her partner Maria Exall, a BT engineer, in a civil ceremony in 2008.

Ms Eagle said she came out to her then-boss John Prescott in 1997 before speaking publically about her sexuality so she could move in with her girlfriend. “He said: ‘Tell me something I don’t know, love’ and asked if he could give me a hug.”

Political ambitions

Ms Eagle came fourth in the contest for deputy leader of the party last year. She has served in Tony Blair and Gordon Brown administrations and in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet.

She was famously told by David Cameron to “calm down dear” during Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Cameron later apologised after his comment ignited a sexism row but Ms Eagle was not about to just let him forget it. Her campaign posters for the deputy leader contest used Mr Cameron’s infamous "calm down dear" retort.

Resignation

Ms Eagle’s resignation letter joined a flurry of missives from MPs telling Mr Corbyn why they believe he is not the right person to lead the Labour party.

“With deep regret, and after nine months of trying to make it work, I have today resigned from the Shadow Cabinet,” she began on Twitter, posting a picture of it underneath.

“I was devastated by the result of the EU referendum. Too many of our supporters were taken in by right-wing arguments and I believe this happened, in part, because under your leadership the case to remain in the EU was made with half-hearted ambivalence rather than full-throated clarity.

“While I respect the decision of the electorate, it is the communities we were both elected to serve that have been severely let down. They will be the first to suffer the economic consequences of this decision. They now face the prospect of a much more right-wing Tory Prime Minister and an advancing threat from UKIP in our heartlands which must be vigorously countered.”

In a tearful radio interview, Ms Eagle praised Mr Corbyn as “honourable” but called on him to recognise his failures and resign.

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