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Angela Eagle delayed Labour leadership bid because ‘Jeremy Corbyn could be on the verge of resigning’

A source close to the former shadow Business Secretary said: ‘Jeremy looks like a broken man and people think he might go’

Andy McSmith
Thursday 30 June 2016 18:18 BST
Angela Eagle decided to give Jeremy Corbyn more time to decide whether he really wants to carry on as Labour leader
Angela Eagle decided to give Jeremy Corbyn more time to decide whether he really wants to carry on as Labour leader (Getty Images)

Jeremy Corbyn was spared being plunged into a leadership challenge because of a tip off from someone close to him that he could be on the verge of resigning.

The Labour leader, who has lost the confidence of more than three quarters of his MPs, has repeatedly told those pleading with him privately to go that he cannot let down the 250,00 party members and supporters who gave him a resounding victory in last year’s leadership election.

Angela Eagle, the former shadow Business Secretary, had decided to try to end the stand off between the leader and his MPs by starting what threatened to be a bitter and divisive leadership race.

But a few hours before she planned to make the formal announcement that she was a candidate, as Westminster reeled in astonishment at Boris Johnson’s decision not to enter the Tory leadership race, Ms Eagle decided to give the Labour leader more time to decide whether he really wants to carry on.

A source close to her said: “There is a belief by some people in the party close to Jeremy that he is going to go. John McDonnell is defiant. Diane Abbott is defiant, but Jeremy looks like a broken man and people think he might go.

“This is too important to get it wrong. Angela wants to do the right thing, If Corbyn’s going to go then he should be given the space to go. She doesn’t want to give up that prize.”

The delay may be only for a few days. Friday is the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, when respect for those who died will put public political in-fighting on hold.

Dame Margaret Beckett says Jeremy Corbyn must stand aside in emotional interview

Other Labour MPs are considering whether to contest the leadership, including the former shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith, and the former shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper - but there is general agreement among Labour MPs that if Mr Corbyn insists on fighting another leadership campaign, there should be only one person standing against him.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly said he will not quit because to do so would let down the party members and supporters who gave a resounding majority in last year’s leadership election.

In an announcement on Twitter, the Labour leader reminded his party of the old slogan ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ and called on the Labour Party and trade unions to unite behind his leadership. Unfortunately, in what may be a sign of the intense pressure the Labour leader and his staff have been under for the past week, his signed statement misspelt his name as ‘Jeremy Corybn.’

What's behind the Anglea4leader domain name?

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s rival, Angela Eagle, were preparing for a leadership challenge at least 48 hours before she quit Labour's shadow Cabinet saying she had no confidence in the leader.

The domain name was registered last Saturday, 25 June – the day when then then shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn was contacting fellow members of the shadow Cabinet, telling them that he had lost all confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Mr Benn was sacked late that same night after a telephone conversation with the Labour leader. His sacking set off a stream of resignations, starting early on Sunday morning.

Ms Eagle resigned on Monday, telling Mr Corbyn “we need a leader who can unite the party.”

The Angela4leader domain name was registered by Joe McCrea, a PR consultant from Matlock, Derbyshire, who worked as a special adviser in the Department of Health and in Downing Street during the early years of Tony Blair’s premiership.

Asked why he had registered it while she was still a member of Mr Corbyn's shadow Cabinet, Mr McCrea said: “No comment.”

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