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Corbyn vows to fight for leadership after 11 senior Labour MPs quit his team

Published 26/06/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in London on Sunday
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in London on Sunday
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has lost several members of his shadow cabinet, including Heidi Alexander, right
Former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said he would not be a candidate for Labour leadership

Under fire Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn vowed to battle the co-ordinated attempt to topple him launched by MPs as he insisted he will not "betray" the trust of the party members who elected him.

Mr Corbyn dug-in for trench warfare with senior Commons colleagues after 11 members of the shadow cabinet quit his top team in despair at his ability to win a general election.

One, shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant, warned Mr Corbyn risked going down in history as "the man who broke the Labour Party" unless he stood aside.

In a tough talking statement Mr Corbyn insisted he would fight for his job and contest any leadership challenge.

"I was elected by hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics.

"I regret there have been resignations today from my shadow cabinet. But I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me - or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them.

"Those who want to change Labour's leadership will have to stand in a democratic election, in which I will be a candidate.

"Over the next 24 hours I will reshape my shadow cabinet and announce a new leadership team to take forward Labour's campaign for a fairer Britain - and to get the best deal with Europe for our people."

The move came after a day of high drama at Westminster which saw critics take it in turn to ratchet-up pressure on Mr Corbyn by turning their backs on his shadow cabinet.

Mr Bryant accused the Labour leader of deliberately undermining his party's own Remain campaign.

"Your inability to give a clear, unambiguous message to Labour voters significantly contributed to the result," Mr Bryant told the Labour leader.

The party's influential deputy leader Tom Watson is to hold emergency talks with Mr Corbyn on Monday to "discuss the way forward" after the high profile resignations - with more expected to follow.

In a statement which pointedly did not explicitly back Mr Corbyn, Mr Watson said he was "saddened" so many colleagues felt unable to carry on and "deeply disappointed" at the sacking overnight of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn which triggered the walkout.

A source close to shadow business secretary Angela Eagle, who has not resigned, said: "She is heartbroken about the position in which the party finds itself and desperately worried we're failing to connect with communities across the country."

A series of senior trade unionists on Labour's ruling national executive committee rallied in support of Mr Corbyn - including Unite leader Len McCluskey and Dave Ward of the Communication Workers Union.

There was also support from shadow home secretary Andy Burnham who said he had no intention of taking part in a coup against the Labour leader.

However the rebels warned Mr Corbyn would be unable to form a new shadow team - with Labour MPs unwilling to serve under his leadership - if he tried to struggle on.

The revolt of the shadow cabinet was sparked by the dismissal of Mr Benn in the early hours of the morning following reports that he was orchestrating moves to mount a coup against Mr Corbyn.

First to go was shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander, then shadow minister Gloria De Piero.

They were followed at intervals through the day by shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy, shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood, shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker, shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer, shadow Treasury chief secretary Seema Malhotra and Karl Turner, the shadow attorney general.

Mr Benn told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "He (Mr Corbyn) is a good and decent man but he is not a leader and that is the problem."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell - one of Mr Corbyn's closest allies - insisted that he had no intention of quitting.

In a thinly veiled warning to rebels, he said that Mr Corbyn still had the backing of the grassroots activists who swept him to the leadership last year and who will decide the outcome of any new contest.

However Mr Corbyn now faces a vote of no confidence which will be discussed at the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party at Westminster on Monday with a secret ballot of MPs expected the following day.

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