Rebel Labour MPs 'to form new group to force Jeremy Corbyn to resign' if party loses election

It is claimed that as many as 100 MPs could resign the whip if the party is thrashed in the election

Caroline Mortimer
Wednesday 10 May 2017 08:12 BST
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey (PA)

Labour could be split in two after the election with many as 100 MPs reportedly plotting to form their own breakaway group to force Jeremy Corbyn to resign.

MPs on the moderate and right-wing of the party are said to be in talks with potential donors about forming a new “progressives” grouping in Parliament after the expected rout by the Conservatives in the election on 8 June.

One poll released today by French firm Kantar Media showed the Conservatives’ lead over the Labour has been cut by eight points, but the party is still well behind and looking at losing dozens of seats.

Under the plans reportedly being discussed by rebels, the MPs would resign the whip and sit as independents until Mr Corbyn is removed as leader.

They would then rejoin the parliamentary Labour Party, The Daily Telegraph reported. In this scenario they would retain Labour Party membership and would not create a new party formally.

Sources told the Telegraph that potential leaders of the breakaway group being discussed include shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, former leadership candidate Yvette Cooper and popular backbencher Dan Jarvis – although there is no suggestion any candidate has been approached.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn dismissed the report as "another silly story from a Tory paper and anonymous source to distract from Labour's policies for the many not the few".

The news comes as Mr Corbyn has attempted to row back on comments he made to BuzzFeed News when he suggested he would stay on as party leader even if Labour suffers a landslide defeat.

Out on the campaign trail in Leamington Spa, he said: "I was elected leader of this party and I’ll stay leader of this party."

He insisted the criticism and poor poll ratings were not getting to him and he said no matter what he will be “carrying on” after the vote.

But in an interview with the BBC, Mr Corbyn attempted to claim he had never said that and the party banned a BuzzFeed News reporter from a campaign event in Manchester.

BuzzFeed News later published the recording where Mr Corbyn is heard saying he plans to stay on.

Mr Corbyn has already survived one attempt to oust him as leader, while The Independent last month revealed intentions for him to remain in post even if the party loses.

Britain's Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbynposesfor a picture with his campaign bus in Manchester
Britain's Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbynposesfor a picture with his campaign bus in Manchester (EPA)

Proposed changes which are expected to be put to the party's annual conference in the autumn will lower the threshold needed for an MP to get onto the leadership ballot.

The current threshold – 20 per cent of MPs and MEPs – is currently too high for most MPs on the hard left. Mr Corbyn was only able to get onto the leadership ballot the first time in 2015 after he was lent support by moderates.

It is believed that if Mr Corbyn gets his changes through he may step down in favour of one of the new generation of his supporters, with shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey among potential contenders.

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