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Corbyn defiant as party rises in rebellion against his leadership

By Sam Lister and David Hughes

Published 28/06/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to speak at a rally in Parliament Square last night
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to speak at a rally in Parliament Square last night
Chuka Umunna

Jeremy Corbyn yesterday faced a "hostile" meeting with Labour MPs and peers who told to quit for the sake of the party.

Many of the party's politicians looked close to tears after a volatile showdown that former leadership contender Chuka Umunna called "pretty catastrophic".

In extraordinary scenes, former frontbencher John Woodcock and Mr Corbyn's press spokesman rowed in front of the huddle of journalists gathered in Parliament's committee corridor.

Despite the "overwhelming" criticism from across the parliamentary party, Mr Corbyn's aides insisted the Labour leader would not be quitting.

Mr Corbyn's authority was left in tatters after two-thirds of his shadow cabinet quit in an open revolt against his leadership.

It followed criticism of his lacklustre performance in the EU referendum.

The Labour leader is likely to face a challenge for his position after losing 20 members from his top team and a raft of junior frontbenchers over the past 24 hours, as months of frustration exploded into a full-blown rebellion.

Among those who quit was shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Vernon Coaker, who was replaced by Blaydon MP Dave Anderson.

Mr Corbyn was jeered as he used a Commons appearance to hit out at the rebels "indulging" in manoeuvres against him.

At a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party later, the leader was told: "For your sake but, most importantly, for the sake of the people who need a Labour government, do the decent thing."

Former Communities Minister Ian Austin said the "overwhelming majority of speakers were critical of Jeremy and saying he should stand down".

He added: "I have never seen a meeting like it. It's a big moment for the Labour party."

Earlier, shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the crowds Mr Corbyn would stand for re-election should his position be formally challenged.

Mr McDonnell said: "He was elected nine months ago with the biggest mandate any elected leader has had from the rank and file membership of their party. We call that democracy.

"Let me make it absolutely clear. Jeremy Corbyn is not resigning, he's staying."

Mr Corbyn, meanwhile, headed to Parliament Square, where he received a rapturous reception from supporters of the Left-wing Momentum movement who rallied in a show of support.

The crowd cheered and waved placards reading "No Jexit" as Mr Corbyn told them: "We don't need a blame culture. We need a united culture."

The Labour leader made no direct reference to the challenges to his authority, but said: "Don't let the media divide us, don't let those people who wish us ill divide us. Stay together, strong and united for the kind of world we want to live in."

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