Sunday, June 26, 2016

Labor Rebels to Test Jeremy Corbyn's Resolve With 'Stalking Horse' Candidate
26 JUN 2016
Mirror Online

John Spellar could be used to test Jeremy Corbyn to see if he will quit - and then a real challenge can step up

Former minister John Spellar is being touted as a stalking horse* candidate as plotters prepare to formally trigger a Labour leadership contest on Wednesday.

His anticipated role would be to pave the way for more high-profile challengers to Jeremy Corbyn if he refuses to quit in the next 48 hours.

In the early hours today, Mr Corbyn sacked Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn for
“disloyalty” after it was revealed he rang Shadow Cabinet colleagues in the aftermath of Thursday’s Brexit vote to gauge support for a coup attempt.

Eleven members of the Shadow Cabinet then resigned in protest at Mr Corbyn’s failure to inspire enough Labour voters to back Remain.

The astonishing mass walkout, just the latest rumble of Britain’s post- Brexit earthquake, was organised via a secret group on the WhatsApp messaging service and played out at staged intervals throughout the day.

It is understood a second wave of up to 20 junior Shadow ministers will resign on Monday unless Mr Corbyn steps down.

Mr Spellar, a minister in Tony Blair ’s government, denied he would stand for leader, but said: “It’s very clear there will be a vote of no confidence in Jeremy, and there will then be a leadership contest.”

Rebel MPs have gathered the 50 names required to spark a coup attempt, meaning the party faces its second leadership contest within 12 months.

One of the favourites to succeed Mr Corbyn, Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle, said she is “desperately worried” Labour is “failing to connect with communities across the country”.

She is expected to quit tomorrow unless Mr Corbyn resigns.

A post-referendum move against the Labour leader had been long planned but the trigger for the walkout was Mr Benn being axed.

Deputy Leader Tom Watson, seen as crucial in any effort to oust Mr Corbyn, pointedly failed to back the leader today.

Mr Watson, at the Glastonbury Festival over the weekend as Labour’s turmoil worsened, said in a statement he was “deeply disappointed” Mr Benn had been sacked and “equally saddened” by so many “talented” members of the Shadow Cabinet feeling “they had to leave”.

Mr Watson added: “The nation needs an effective Opposition, particularly as the current leadership of the country is so lamentable.

“It’s very clear to me that we are heading for an early general election, and the Labour Party must be ready to form a government.

"There’s much work to do. I will be meeting Jeremy Corbyn tomorrow morning to discuss the way forward.”

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham refused to join the coup – a move seen by some as part of his ongoing bid to become Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Mr Burnham said: “At an uncertain time like this for our country, I cannot see how it makes sense for the Opposition to plunge itself into a civil war.

"I’ve never taken part in a coup against a leader of the Labour Party and I am not going to start now.”

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Benn said: “There is no confidence to win the next election if Jeremy continues.

“In a phone call to Jeremy I told him I had lost confidence in his ability to lead the party and he dismissed me. He is a good and decent man. But he is not a leader.”

Within hours Mr Benn was followed out of the door by Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander.

She told ITV’s Robert Peston: “Now more than ever our country needs a strong and effective Opposition to hold this government to account.

“If I’m going to be stood on the doorstep over the next couple of months, if I’m going to be sat in TV studios, could I hand on heart say that I felt that Jeremy was the best person to be leading the Labour Party?

“I didn’t feel I could do that. I felt the only decent and honourable thing to do was to resign.”

She was followed by a stream of colleagues including Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell, Shadow Young People’s Minister Gloria De Piero, and Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer.

Each of the departing Shadow Cabinet ministers sent a brutal letter to Mr Corbyn saying he was not the man to unite the party in the chaos of the EU referendum defeat.

Ms Powell said she had no confidence in Mr Corbyn’s ability to lead them to victory in a snap general election.

She told Mr Corbyn: “The task in front of us is immense. We have, over many years, lost the support of our traditional communities.

“While I don’t blame you personally for that, I do not believe you understand their concerns sufficiently to re-engage with these communities.”

But Mr Corbyn’s dwindling number of allies in the Commons rallied round him and insisted he would not stand down.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell ruled out a leadership bid of his own, adding: “If Jeremy has to stand for another leadership election, I will chair his campaign and I think the Labour Party members will elect him again.”

Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “People are saying ‘you lost the referendum’ and that somehow is Jeremy Corbyn ’s fault. That is nonsense.”

Trade unions weighed in behind the Labour leader, with Unite chief Len McCluskey hinting rebel MPs could face de-selection if they do not fall into line.

Mr McCluskey said: “Unite has hitherto opposed any plans to change the party rules governing mandatory re-selection of Labour MPs.

“But those MPs who have missed no opportunity to tweet and brief against the party’s elected leader over the last 10 months will find that their disloyalty finds no favour with party members – and will make this an increasingly difficult line to hold.”

Rebel Labour MP Jamie Reed accused Mr McCluskey of being “absurdly out of touch”.

The first moves against Mr Corbyn came on Friday when MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey called for a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

Labour MPs will meet to discuss the motion tonight and a vote is expected tomorrow afternoon.

The Mirror understands that if Mr Corbyn stands firm, a leadership contest will be triggered on Wednesday morning with a letter from 50 rebel Labour MPs backing an alternative candidate.

That could lead to a legal battle over whether Mr Corbyn would also need the backing of 50 Labour MPs and MEPs to ensure his name is on the ballot paper in any future vote of party members.

Labour sources accuse eurosceptic Mr Corbyn of “sabotaging” the Remain campaign, and released an extraordinary dossier of evidence against him and his officials.

It included accusations they watered down pro-EU speeches.

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