Labour Party truly in ‘danger of splitting apart’ if crisis talks between Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson fail

The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith has issued a stark warning to his party

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Thursday 07 July 2016 12:40
Comments
Labour has signed up 100,000 new members since the EU referendum and Mr Corbyn’s team are confident that the majority back the leader
Labour has signed up 100,000 new members since the EU referendum and Mr Corbyn’s team are confident that the majority back the leader

The Labour Party is “truly in danger of splitting apart”, shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith has said, as he urged MPs to allow time for crisis talks between Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson to succeed.

In a statement issued on Thursday morning, Mr Smith – who is tipped as a potential leadership contender – did however hint that he would challenge Mr Corbyn if necessary, saying: “I stand ready to do anything I can to save and serve the party.”

It came as Unite union boss Len McCluskey arrived in Westminster to broker further talks between senior Labour figures over Mr Corbyn’s future. The Labour leader was last week rocked by the resignation of most of his frontbench and a vote of no confidence that was backed by 172 MPs, and calls to resign from across the party.

Corbyn on Chilcot Inquiry

However, Mr Corbyn has stood firm, backed by shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and the major unions, who argue that he has an overwhelming mandate to lead from Labour party members. In a bid to break the deadlock, talks have been held between Mr Corbyn and Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson.

Mr Watson, along with many MPs, has said he considers Mr Corbyn’s position to be untenable. Mr Smith has suggested that this weekend could be crucial, and urged MPs to allow talks to progress.

“Over the last week, I have been contacted by hundreds of Labour members and MPs deeply worried that the Labour Party is truly in danger of splitting apart. I share those fears and call on everyone in our movement to do all we can to avert such a disastrous outcome,” Mr Smith said.

“I stand ready to do anything I can to save and serve the party. Yesterday, I spoke directly with Len McCluskey of Unite and met with our leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to explore what I can do to try and heal the rifts that have opened up in our movement. On behalf of the trades unions, Len has reassured me that the talks he has opened up between Jeremy and Tom Watson have been productive and has asked that they are given more time this weekend to see what further progress can be made towards a resolution.

“Jeremy has also reassured me that he is engaging in talks with an open mind. I believe that all of us whose priority is to restore unity in the Labour movement and give us a chance to defeat our only true enemy, the Tories, should give these talks every chance to succeed. That is what I intend to do and I urge all my colleagues to do likewise.”

So far only former Shadow Cabinet member Angela Eagle has publicly said she will challenge Mr Corbyn in a leadership contest if he does not stand down. However, Mr Smith is understood to be considering a bid. Ms Eagle’s own challenge suffered a setback yesterday after party members in her constituency overwhelmingly voted to support Mr Corbyn.

A new leadership contest would come down to a vote among members, which Mr Corbyn’s team is confident he would win. The party has signed up at least 100,000 new members since the EU referendum. Some are understood to have joined in order vote to oust Mr Corbyn, however, the leader’s team is confident that the vast majority signed up in order to back him in a leadership contest.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in