Labour MPs move to oust Jeremy Corbyn… but fans rally to his aid
Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey led the charge, but many other MPs also broke ranks.
Jeremy Corbyn could face an imminent leadership challenge as frustrated MPs get used to the idea of an early general election.
Labour MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey sparked an uprising after the Brexit vote by drafting a letter expressing no confidence in the leader.
Their letter to Labour parliamentary party chair John Cryer asked for “urgent consideration” of their leader’s position. That may now put to a vote of MPs at a forthcoming Monday night meeting of the parliamentary party, possibly as early as next week.
Hodge and Coffey both supported Liz Kendall for leader and Caroline Flint for deputy leader in last year’s contest.
Hodge did not say who she thought should take over from Corbyn. But she told ITV News: "It is my judgement, after a lot of reflection, that Jeremy has not got the capability to lead us through these difficult times... I hope one of these young, talented MPs can come forward to fill his place."
The former chair of the public accounts then toured the TV studios in a bid to drive up support for her plan. On Sky News, she said: “I think the European referendum was a test of leadership and Jeremy Corbyn failed that test.”
A handful of other MPs also broke ranks to publicly argue that Corbyn should quit.
Angela Smith, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, told the Press Association that the leader “really ought to consider his position”.
Smith added: “I think my feeling is Jeremy Corbyn needs to bear his share of the responsibility for the way in which he led the EU referendum campaign from a Labour perspective.”
Former minister Ben Bradshaw told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend he would be backing the no confidence motion.
He said: “This was a devastating and catastrophic defeat, not just for the Labour party but for our Labour leadership. I think Jeremy is a decent and nice man but his leadership, or rather lack of it, particularly during the referendum campaign, has been abysmal.
“And I do think that, like David Cameron, he needs to shoulder his share of the responsibility and for the sake of the party and the country, step down.”
And former frontbencher Chris Leslie told BBC News: “I would say today he does need to consider his position and think about whether he should do the honourable thing.”
Other MPs said to be backing the no confidence motion include Stephen Kinnock, the recently-election and highly rated son of former party leader Neil Kinnock.
Former cabinet minister Lord Mandelson also weighed in, sayings that it had it become clear to many in the party during this referendum campaign “that Jeremy can’t cut it”.
But Corbyn’s spokesman was clear that he had no intention of stepping aside.
“At a time of a momentous decision by the British people, it's not the time to create divisions," the spokesman said.
"It's the time to unite and ensure Labour represent the people's wish and to hold the government to account on their exit negotiations, ensuring working people are defended.”
Meanwhile, a petition seeking to head off the challenge to Corbyn’s leadership quickly gathered momentum after it was circulated on social media.
The 38 Degrees petition is titled: “A vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn after Brexit.”
It urges Corbynites: “Make your voice heard against the Blairites and keep Jeremy as rightful leader of the Labour party… People don't want him to resign despite how they voted in the referendum.”
The appeal had received some 65,000 signatures by 5pm on Friday.
A number of trade union leaders - including Unite boss Len McLuskey and Unison's Dave Prentis - also issued a statement backing Corbyn to continue as Labour leader.
It said: "The prime minister's resignation has triggered a Tory leadership crisis. At the very time we need politicians to come together for the common good, the Tory party is plunging into a period of argument and infighting. In the absence of a government that puts the people first Labour must unite as a source of national stability and unity. It should focus on speaking up for jobs and workers' rights under threat, and on challenging any attempt to use the referendum result to introduce a more right-wing Tory government by the backdoor.
"The last thing Labour needs is a manufactured leadership row of its own in the midst of this crisis and we call upon all Labour MPs not to engage in any such indulgence."
Picture by: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire/Press Association Images.