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Jeremy Corbyn vows to fight to keep Labour leadership

Published 25/06/2016

Embattled Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to fight for his job if MPs attempt to topple him.

Facing a vote of no confidence next week, Mr Corbyn insisted he would run again if forced into a crisis leadership election which would be decided by grassroots members.

Asked if he would stand in such circumstances, he said: "Yes, I'm here, thank you."

Mr Corbyn added: "There are some people in the Parliamentary Labour Party who would probably want somebody else being the leader of this party, they have made that abundantly clear in the past few days."

But Mr Corbyn said he has been amazed at the more than 100,000 people who have signed a petition calling for him to stay.

The defiant stance came as former minister Frank Field became the latest senior Labour figure to publicly criticise the leader.

Accusing Mr Corbyn of often talking "claptrap", Mr Field told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "He clearly isn't the right person to actually lead the party into an election because nobody thinks he will actually win. We clearly need somebody who the public think of as an alternative prime minister."

Many of the party's pro-Remain MPs have expressed despair at what they see as Mr Corbyn's lacklustre performance in the referendum campaign as former minister Dame Margaret Hodge pushed for a no confidence vote.

Mr Corbyn made the promise on the leadership fight after a major post-Brexit vote speech in London in which he said Labour needed to listen to its traditional voters who backed Leave as he insisted it was not racist to be concerned about immigration.

He accused the Conservatives of creating a "divisive" culture in which they shifted blame for cuts in public services from the Government to immigrants.

"And we have to move beyond the irresponsible debate that we sometimes have that makes people afraid or that accuses people of being Little Englanders or racists just for raising the issue.

"We must talk about immigration, but we will never pander to prejudice.

"It is clear from the vote on Thursday and from the people I have spoken to across Britain that there was a backlash against the free movement of people across the 28 nations in the European Union, " Mr Corbyn said.

He again pledged to block the emergency Budget containing £30 billion of spending cuts and tax rises that Chancellor George Osborne threatened to impose if the UK voted for Brexit.

Dame Margaret emphasised that under PLP rules it would be a secret ballot for her no confidence motion, in the hope that MPs would be emboldened to move against Mr Corbyn without the fear of a backlash from his grassroots supporters in the Momentum campaign group.

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

Labour peer Lord Blunkett said he did not want Mr Corbyn to remain leader for the long term, but said the more urgent challenge facing the party was to work out what it stands for.

The former cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I didn't vote for him, I'm not in favour of Jeremy being the long-term leader of the Labour Party, but throwing eggs at him at the moment actually isn't going to change anything. Jeremy isn't the problem. His project and those around him are the problem."

During a visit to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride parade in London, Mr Corbyn was heckled by a Labour activist calling for him to resign over his failure to get out the party's voters for Remain in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales.

In a video circulating on social media, party member Tom Mauchline can be seen shouting: "It's your fault, Jeremy. When are you resigning? You need to resign."

Mr Corbyn can be seen replying: "I did all I could."

Mr Mauchline later told the Press Association: "I didn't come here intending to do this. I didn't know he was going to be there. We were given 15 minutes' notice that he was coming and it made me so angry. It just seemed like a cynical attempt to use the LGBT community to shore up his weak leadership."

Labour mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he did not want to be drawn into a "running commentary on Jeremy Corbyn's future".

Asked if he supported the party leader, Mr Khan said: "Jeremy Corbyn won a big mandate last year, he's got a big job to do."

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