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Corbyn rejects calls to resign after MPs slam his EU vote efforts

Published 24/06/2016

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in Islington
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in Islington

Jeremy Corbyn has rejected calls for his resignation amid growing fury at his failure to galvanise the party's traditional supporters to turn out for Remain.

The Labour leader is facing a vote of no confidence from some of his MPs, with one senior source describing the mood within the party as one of "utter devastation".

But Mr Corbyn insisted he will be carrying on and "making the case for unity" ahead of a potential general election once David Cameron's successor is chosen by the Conservatives.

He also questioned whether the approach of Dame Margaret Hodge, who submitted her no confidence motion to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), was a good idea due to " massive political issues" which need to be dealt with following the Brexit result.

Labour MPs are fearful the resignation of Mr Cameron as Prime Minister could trigger a general election before the end of the year, with c ritics of Mr Corbyn warning they needed to act to prevent a catastrophe at the polls.

Dame Margaret's motion was submitted to PLP chairman John Cryer with a request that it should be discussed at the next meeting of the group on Monday, with a vote the following day.

Asked if he will resign, Mr Corbyn told Channel 4 News: "No, I'm carrying on.

"I'm making the case for unity, I'm making the case of what Labour can offer to Britain, of decent housing for people, of good secure jobs for people, of trade with Europe and of course with other parts of the world. Because if we don't get the trade issue right we've got a real problem in this country."

Dame Margaret emphasised that under PLP rules it would be a secret ballot for her motion, in the hope that MPs will be emboldened to move against Mr Corbyn without the fear of a backlash from his grassroots supporters from the Momentum campaign group.

Although the motion has no formal status, backers hope it will help build a sense that confidence in him is draining away, forcing him to resign.

Dame Margaret told Sky News: "The European referendum was a test of leadership and I think Jeremy failed that test. He came out too slowly, he was very half-hearted about his attempts to campaign and Labour voters simply didn't get the message.

"I hope, in the context of a secret ballot, that there will be overwhelming support for this motion I am putting and Jeremy will do the decent thing and resign."

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn labelled Dame Margaret's move as " a bit of a self-indulgent act".

However, a series of senior figures indicated they were considering supporting the motion in potentially the first serious challenge to Mr Corbyn's position since he became Labour leader 10 months ago.

Former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said he was "not surprised" at the move and called on Mr Corbyn to consider his position.

Former front bencher Caroline Flint said she understood why MPs were prepared to support the motion.

"The truth is that Jeremy's leadership doesn't seem to be reaching out to those parts of Britain, those parts of the Labour vote we depend on to win a general election," she told BBC News.

Backbencher Ann Coffey, who seconded the motion, said Mr Corbyn needed to take responsibility for what had happened in the referendum.

"He needs to know that a substantial number of the parliamentary party have no confidence in his leadership and he needs to consider that and consider whether it is tenable to be leader when his parliamentary party does not support him," she told the Press Association.

The comments reflected alarm within the party at the way a series of traditional Labour strongholds in the North and Midlands voted heavily for Leave, with many voters citing concerns about immigration.

Other backbenchers indicated they were ready to support the no confidence motion. Helen Goodman told the Press Association the party needed "hard-headed leadership" not "woolly fantasising".

Graham Jones said: "I want a damn good explanation from Jeremy Corbyn as to why we ended up in this mess. If I am not satisfied, I will support the motion."

Stephen Kinnock, another prominent Remain supporter, is also thought to be prepared to vote for the motion.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell, one of Mr Corbyn's closest allies, warned the Labour leader had "overwhelming support" among grassroots activists.

"I think the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, once they consult their members back in their constituencies, will take the same view," he told the Press Association.

He said the party needed to "gear up" for a possible snap election and that he was "disappointed" at Dame Margaret's intervention.

"I thought she'd have been more concerned about the state of the economy than party discussions," he said.

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