Jeremy Corbyn has told Labour MPs they will never induce him to resign, even if – as expected – an overwhelming majority of them pass a vote of no confidence in him on Tuesday.
The Labour leader endured a tumultous day as the number of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet climbed to 23, alongside a similar number of junior ministers. The packed meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party in a Commons committee room was one of the angriest in the Labour Party’s history, when one MP after another told him to his face that he should resign.
The argument even spilled into the adjoining corridor. Mr Corbyn’s spokesman told journalists that all the resignations, and calls for Mr Corbyn’s resignations were “irrelevant”, because he had a mandate from party members after his sweeping election victory in last year’s leadership contest.
The spokesman added: “Anybody can oppose him. They have the power to start a leadership race, but it’s up to them to do it. No whispering, no corridor coups, get out in the country, let’s test who the members want to be the leader of the Labour Party.”
The Labour MP John Woodcock, who overheard these remarks, interjected angrily: “Be honest: you’re the one that’s standing in the corridor briefing from what’s supposed to be a private meeting.”
The official retorted: “You slag us off to the media every day.”
Mr Woodcock warned him: “Be clear what you’re saying, because that won’t be the end of it if you don’t retract that.”
He added: “You are an unelected official standing outside, briefing the media on what is supposed to be a private meeting we held in there, giving a highly distorted account.”
Inside the meeting, the attack on Mr Corbyn was led by the former Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who chaired the Labour Remain campaign during the run up to last week’s referendum. He complained that during the campaign, no member of Mr Corbyn’s staff had turned out to any of the meetings the Labour Remain staff, but they had decided that the way Labour Remain was running was “too euphoric” and instructed them to tone it down. One MP said afterwards: ”I have never, ever seen Alan Johnson so angry.”
Ian Murray, Scotland’s only Labour MP who resigned from the shadow cabinet over the weekend, told Mr Corbyn “I like you very much but you are not a leader.” He also alleged that his staff were being intimidated by pro-Corbyn demonstrators gathered outside his Edinburgh office. He told the Labour leader: “You should call off the dogs.”
Chris Bryant, who also resigned from the shadow cabinet during the current crisis, accused Mr Corbyn of being “in denial”. He said that a Labour leader had three jobs – to unite the party, develop a vision, and achieve recognition as a Prime Minister in waiting, but said that Mr Corbyn had failed all three.
Barry Gardiner, who was promoted to Mr Cornbyn’s shadow cabinet earlier in the day after the stream of resignations, made a plea for loyalty to the leader, but fellow MPs barracked him, shouting: “Shame! Shame! Have you been paid for that?” Mr Gardiner left at the end of the meeting looking strained.
On Tuesday Labour MPs will hold a secret ballot on whether they have confidence in their leader. Mr Corbyn’s own advisers privately admit that they expect him to lose the vote, which is then likely to set off a leadership contest – but they insist that Mr Corbyn will not resign, and will run for re-election if challenged.
Over two days since the sacking of the Shadow Foreign Minister Hilary Benn, Mr Corbyn office have received one message after another from shadow ministers who said they were resigning because they had lost confidence in him. He has defiantly set about appointing replacements, and by yesterday evening had selected 20 shadow ministers in place of the 30 who resigned.
Clive Lewis, who was appointed Shadow Defence Secretary at short notice, was unable to be in the Commons where the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was taking MPs’ questions because he was in Glastonbury, so his place was taken by the newly appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.
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