Jeremy Corbyn Faces No Confidence Motion and Leadership Challenge

Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey have submitted a motion ahead of Monday’s PLP meeting.


The long-threatened coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn has begun. I wrote several weeks ago that Brexit would be “the trigger” for a challenge to the Labour leader and his opponents have immediately taken action.

Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey have submitted a motion of no confidence in the Labour leader for discussion at Monday’s PLP meeting. If accepted, it would be followed by a secret ballot of MPs on Tuesday. A spokesman for Corbyn told me in response: “It’s time for the party to unite and focus on the real issues that affect peope from today’s decision and hold the government to account on their exit negotiations.”

Any confidence motion would be purely symbolic. But Corbyn’s opponents are also “absolutely convinced” that they have the backing of the 51 MPs/MEPs (20 per cent) needed to endorse a leadership challenger and trigger a contest. Delivery of the letters to general secretary Iain McNicol is expected to start this weekend.

The prospect of a new Tory prime minister and an early general election has pushed them towards action. “We have to get rid of him now,” a former shadow cabinet minister told me. “If we go into an election with him as leader we’ll be reduced to 150 seats.”

Hilary Benn, Tom Watson, Angela Eagle and Dan Jarvis are among those cited as potential candidates. One MP suggested that a “Michael Howard figure” was needed to steer the party through the next election. John McDonnell, Corbyn’s closest ally and another possible successor, is believed to lack sufficient support (15 per cent of MPs/MEPs) to make the ballot.

Labour figures were dismayed by Corbyn’s performance during the referendum and partly blame his lack of enthusiasm for defeat. Polls showed that nearly half of the party’s voters were unaware of its position a few weeks before polling day.

Corbyn is also charged with costing support by conceding that it was “impossible” to limit free movement the weekend before the referendum. “It simply shone a light on how utterly out of touch Corbyn and McDonnell are with many traditional Labour voters outside of London,” a senior MP told me.

“Jeremy made the biggest issue of concern for traditional Labour voters thinking of voting Leave – the impact of freeedom of movement – his main reason why Britain should Remain. It was a sort of political suicide of genius proportions.” 

The rebels are seeking shadow cabinet support for their challenge to Corbyn (one spoke of a “moral responsibility”) but no one is believed to have called for his resignation at today’s 2 hour 45 minute meeting.

In a statement relesed earlier today, Watson emphasised the need for “stability”. He said: “Labour has lessons to learn and we will to continue to listen but our focus over the next few days must be to reassure voters, millions of whom are very concerned about our country’s future. They should know that we will work in Parliament to provide stability in a period of great instability for our country.”

Earlier rumours of a letter signed by 55 Labour MPs calling for Corbyn to resign have been been dismissed as a leadership plant. “It’s Damian [McBride] or someone who’s read his book,” one suggested. They believe the claim was a time-honoured device to weaken the rebels by creating false expectations.


George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.




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