Angela Eagle fired her opening salvo at Jeremy Corbyn in a Labour leadership battle that has the potential to split the party and end in a bitter legal wrangle.
The former shadow cabinet minister, who was the most senior MP to resign in the revolt against Corbyn, said he is “not a leader” and accused him of “hiding behind a closed door” in denial of the chaos around him.
Corbyn vowed to fight on, and said it would be “irresponsible” for him to quit. He has threatened legal action if his name is not on the ballot in a leadership contest.
Owen Smith, another potential challenger, demanded emergency talks with Corbyn and suggested that Corbyn and his allies were prepared to split the party.
Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday, yesterday, Eagle said Corbyn had not been able to “communicate with the electorate” and “he’s now lost the confidence of the parliamentary party”.
She said: “Jeremy lost us local councillors in the elections. We have failed to win the EU referendum, which is going to cause enormous stress and pressure in our country. That is not the leadership that will take us forward.
"I tried, over nine months, to support Jeremy and his leadership. He’s not a bad man. He’s not a leader, though.”
Corbyn and his allies have insisted that, according to the Labour rulebook, he will automatically be on the ballot and any challenger will have to secure the names of 51 MPs — 20% of the party’s parliamentarians in Westminster and Brussels — to be nominated.
But opponents have interpreted the document to mean that Corbyn will also require the support of MPs to stand, and that is unlikely to happen.
The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will decide on the rules, after a contest is formally triggered, with Ms Eagle set to officially launch her bid on Monday.
Eagle did not set out policy areas where she differs from Mr Corbyn, but said he is not able to win a general election.
“I’m on the left. Any party that I lead will be an anti-austerity party, because what’s happened in our heartlands is that they have been hit by six years of Conservative cuts piled up onto them,” she told BBC One’s Sunday Politics.
“I think that I want to lead a strong, united opposition to get into government.”
She said it was “not clear, from the Labour Party rules”, whether Mr Corbyn should be on the ballot, but she added: “Anyone who aspires to lead the parliamentary party who cannot get 51 members, 20% of the parliamentary party, to back them, is not going to be able to do the job properly.”
On BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Corbyn said he had “reached out in a way no other leader has” in an attempt to unite all parts of the party.
“I’m expecting to be on the ballot paper, because the rules of the party indicate that the existing leader, if challenged, should be on the ballot paper, anyway”.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) July 10, 2016
1,000 lawyers warn Cameron on Brexit
Hundreds of barristers have advised British prime minister David Cameron to tread carefully before taking steps to withdraw the UK from the European Union.
More than 1,000 have signed a letter to Cameron which says the referendum result is “advisory” and not legally binding.
They say primary legislation will be needed before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — which governs how a member state can leave the EU — can be triggered. The lawyers say the government should organise an independent investigation into the pros and cons of withdrawal before making exit plans.
They say the letter proposes a way forward which “reconciles the legal, constitutional and political issues” triggered by the Brexit vote.
Philip Kolvin QC, who co-ordinated the letter, said: “Parliament is sovereign and the guardian of our democracy.
“MPs are elected to exercise their best judgment on the basis of objective evidence, to safeguard the interests of the country and their constituents for this and future generations.
“At this time of profound constitutional, political and possibly social and economic crisis, we look to them to fulfil the responsibility placed upon them.”
Barrister Aidan O’Neill, a constitutional and EU law specialist, said: “The Brexit referendum has made clear that the UK is not a united nation-state, but a divided state of nations.
“But it has given no mandate or guidance as to what our nations’ future relationship might be with Europe, and with each other.”
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