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Jeremy Corbyn's allies insist unions can broker deal to end Labour's meltdown

Published 03/07/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is under further pressure to quit
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is under further pressure to quit

Jeremy Corbyn's allies have insisted trade unions can broker a peace deal to end Labour's meltdown as they claimed the leader is the victim of a "political lynching".

Former leaders have warned the party must have "credibility" as an Opposition and insisted party rules mean he must quit.

But Len McCluskey, one of Mr Corbyn's most prominent supporters, said it was "outrageous" that grandees were "being dragged out to be part of this unedifying coup".

The Unite leader said the attempt to overthrow the leadership had failed and insisted the unions can "broker a peace" deal, a move backed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Mr McCluskey told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "This has been a political lynching of a decent man, undermined, humiliated, attacked, in order to push him out.

"And here's the truth. It's failed. The coup has failed. Jeremy Corbyn is made of stronger stuff, he is a man of steel and he has made it clear that he will not stand down."

Mr McCluskey said "sinister forces", including a PR company with links to Mr Blair, had "seduced" the MPs on the left of the party.

The trade unions can "broker a peace", Mr McCluskey said as he urged potential challengers Angela Eagle and Owen Smith to step back.

"The alternative, if Angela goes ahead with this, and I hope she doesn't, or Owen, is that we are plunged into a civil war that will be bitter and ugly and may never allow the Labour party to reunite again."

Mr Corbyn has insisted he is "ready to reach out" to his enemies in the party but warned he would stand for re-election if they tried to oust him.

But Neil Kinnock said s upport for Mr Corbyn is seeping away in the country and there is "no basis" on which he can stay in post.

The former Labour leader said party rules mean Mr Corbyn cannot continue in the party's top job and would need to secure backing from more than 50 MPs if he wanted to fight a leadership challenge.

Lord Kinnock said there had been a "significant shift away from Jeremy" in recent days and members have "deep residual doubts".

He said a provision in chapter four of the party's rules meant "any nomination must be supported by 20%" of MPs and MEPs, which means there is " no basis on which Jeremy really could or should stay".

Mr Corbyn has insisted MPs who have set their face against his tenure must "respect" the views of the members who elected him.

In an article for the Sunday Mirror, he wrote: "I am ready to reach out to Labour MPs who didn't accept my election and oppose my leadership - and work with the whole party to provide the alternative the country needs.

"But they also need to respect the democracy of our party and the views of Labour's membership, which has increased by more than 60,000 in the past week alone."

Former prime minister Tony Blair, who is despised by many of Mr Corbyn's grassroots supporters, refused to be drawn on whether the leader should step down but said the opposition needed "credibility".

He told Murnaghan on Sky News: "I have resolutely refused to intervene in this debate about whether Jeremy Corbyn should stay or go.

"I don't know what's happening right now within the Labour party, I'm not part of any move one way or another."

He added: "What I will say is that for a democracy to function you have got to have an opposition with a minimum level of credibility to challenge Government and to hold it to account.

"Especially at the moment when that 48% is feeling deeply disenfranchised and when there is this huge negotiation of national interest on the table.

"You need to have that and if the opposition is incapacitated it allows frankly what's been happening with the Conservative party to happen because they can do whatever they want because they think they are going to be the government at the end of the day."

Emily Thornberry, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, urged MPs to "take a step back".

The shadow foreign secretary told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "I think the future of the country is at stake here."

Ms Thornberry said it was "nonsense" that Mr Corbyn's aides were keeping Tom Watson away from him because they feared the deputy leader would try to "bully" the 67-year-old leader into quitting.

Mr Watson has been trying to seek a meeting to find a way of negotiating a settlement as the crisis engulfing the party shows no sign of abating.

Mr Corbyn's team said it had a "duty of care" to the leader and highlighted his age, according to the Observer.

Labour former minister Chris Bryant said he believes Mr Corbyn would not win a vote among party members.

Mr Bryant , who quit Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet last week, told BBC One's Sunday Politics programme: " Amongst the membership, I don't think Jeremy would win a contest, if I'm honest, now.

"I don't because it's been striking to me how many people have got in touch with me from my own local party saying - of course there are people who are ardent Corbynistas and they will be until their dying day - 'I only joined the Labour Party to support Jeremy but I'm sorry this just can't go on, Jeremy is not convincing me, he's not convincing my neighbours' and they want him to go."

Mr Bryant also said: "How can you possibly go forward with a situation as leader of the Labour Party when seven of your new shadow cabinet that you've only appointed this week, who are Corbyn supporters, want to come and see you and you're so frightened you can't even meet with them - or the deputy leader of the Labour Party."

Labour former deputy prime minister John Prescott said he hopes there is no leadership contest but said Mr Corbyn would need to receive enough nominations to secure his place on the ballot paper if one takes place.

Lord Prescott, touted as a mediator to resolve his party's leadership problems, told the same programme: "I hope Angela and Owen don't go into an election because that will take the fight much nearer to a kind of civil war."

Asked if Mr Corbyn should be on the ballot paper if he is challenged for the leadership, Lord Prescott said: "I believe if he can get sufficient names from the PLP, which is the rule under our situation, then he is entitled to be on it.

"The argument as to whether because he was the leader before is really a legal one.

"Personally, if you're going to have an election, and I hope we don't, that's the only way you can sort it out."

Mr McDonnell called for "calm" and "mediation" within the Labour party.

"There has been a new initiative this morning by Len McCluskey the general secretary of Unite, he suggested that the unions, the affiliated unions of the Labour party, try to mediate an agreement now between the parliamentary Labour party and Jeremy," he told Sky News.

Mr McDonnell laughed uncontrollably when asked about the suggestion that he is keeping Mr Corbyn "under house arrest" and not allowing him to meet with the deputy leader Tom Watson.

"I've heard these stories - this is becoming farcical," he replied.

"Only last week some elements of the coup plotters were briefing the media that I was trying to supplant Jeremy, that I was launching a coup against Jeremy.

"This week the story is I'm forcing him to stay out. It can't be right, both can't be right - neither are right.

"It just shows the febrile atmosphere there is at the moment within politics."

He added: "It's rubbish. I know that Jeremy is meeting any individual MP that wants to come and see him, that includes Tom.

"He's been doing that all through the last nine months, he's had an open door policy, he's seen more members of the parliamentary Labour party than I think any other leader of the Labour party and he will continue to do that."

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