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Corbyn defiant in face of Jewish backlash and hovering Eagle

By Sam Lister and Gavin Cordon

Published 01/07/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday
Former NIO minister Angela Eagle, who is expected to announce a bid for his job

Jeremy Corbyn defiantly continued to cling on as Labour leader in the face of a Jewish backlash, fresh calls to quit and another frontbench resignation.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis led condemnation of Mr Corbyn after he drew comparisons between Israel and Islamic State.

The Opposition leader was also accused of creating a party that was not safe for Jews by one of his MPs.

As hundreds of Labour councillors added their names to the MPs, peers and MEPs who have called on him to quit, his dwindling frontbench team took a further hit. Despite the party meltdown, Mr Corbyn attempted to show it was business as usual by holding a Press conference on the findings of an inquiry into anti-Semitism.

But the event did little to strengthen his beleaguered leadership, fuelling calls for him to quit and sparking anger among the Jewish community.

Labour's Ruth Smeeth called on the leader to stand aside to make way for "someone with the backbone to confront racism and anti-Semitism" after he failed to stand up for her when one of his grassroots supporters launched a verbal assault on her during a question and answer session.

The Chief Rabbi hit out at the Labour leader's "offensive" comments linking Israel and IS.

Rather than rebuilding trust among the Jewish community, Mr Corbyn had caused "even greater concern", he said.

Meanwhile, Rob Marris resigned from his role in the shadow Treasury team during the committee stage hearings on the Finance Bill. There were further calls for Mr Corbyn to quit with a letter signed by 540 Labour councillors posted on the LabourList website saying he was "unable to command the confidence of the whole party nor of many traditional Labour supporters we speak with on the doorstep".

Angela Eagle is delaying her expected leadership challenge to Mr Corbyn.

The former shadow business secretary had been expected to declare that she was going to run as a "unity candidate" at a 3pm news conference yesterday. However, sources said she had decided to hold off because of the turmoil engulfing the Conservatives following the shock withdrawal of Boris Johnson from the leadership race.

"She is still up for it. She has the signatures," one source said, referring to the number of nominations from Labour MPs and MEPs needed to mount a challenge under party rules.

Ms Eagle had been expected to announce she was challenging Mr Corbyn after deputy party leader Tom Watson failed to persuade him to stand down following an overwhelming vote of no confidence by Labour MPs.

Her decision to wait gives the rebels more time to intensify the pressure on Mr Corbyn to quit of his own accord.

Mr Corbyn admitted facing a "torrid few days" but defiantly insisted his mandate was stronger than the vote for the candidate who will become the next Prime Minister. He called on the party to "unite" after the "tumultuous" week after the Brexit result.

"The last year, with all its highs and lows, has left me with every confidence that Labour has the potential to be a powerful and transformatory movement capable of winning the next general election, whenever that comes."

He added: "But my confidence and optimism are not naive.

"We all know that despite the overwhelming mandate I was given by Labour Party members and supporters last year, we have all had a torrid few days, well, at least I have."

Belfast Telegraph

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