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Tom Watson to meet union leaders over Jeremy Corbyn leadership

Published 04/07/2016

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson is to hold emergency talks with trade union leaders after a fresh attempt to persuade Jeremy Corbyn to step down fell on deaf ears.

At a one-to-one meeting at Westminster, Mr Watson told Mr Corbyn he could not carry on as party leader without the backing of the party's MPs who last week voted overwhelmingly in favour of a vote of no confidence in him, Labour sources said.

Mr Corbyn was said to have responded by making clear he had no intention of leaving, and put out a video appeal to supporters to unite behind his leadership.

Sources said union leaders had "reached out" to Mr Watson to see if they could find a negotiated settlement, with talks expected to take place on Tuesday morning.

At the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party at Westminster, Mr Watson told MPs: "It is the last throw of the dice."

Earlier Mr Watson met former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle and ex-shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith, who are both considering a challenge to Mr Corbyn if he continues to resist calls to go.

Both were said have agreed to hold back while there was still a chance of a negotiated settlement which would see Mr Corbyn finally walk away.

"They accept that is the right thing to do while there is a chance of some kind of deal," one source said.

"Tom said he is aware the window is closing very rapidly. The Parliamentary Labour Party have made their views very clear. I don't think they will regard any settlement that sees Jeremy remain in place as being acceptable."

Details of the meeting with the union leaders - where Mr Watson will be joined by the chairman of the PLP John Cryer - were still being thrashed out.

In his video, posted on the internet, Mr Corbyn insisted he was carrying on with the responsibility given to him when elected leader by an overwhelming majority of grassroots members and called for the party to "come together".

He swatted away claims he only half-heartedly campaigned for EU membership in the referendum and so contributed to the vote for Brexit, - which triggered the current crisis - pointing out that two thirds of Labour voters backed Remain.

He said the party has won every by-election it stood in since he became leader and increased majorities in some seats, while the membership had gone up by more than 60,000 in one week.

"We're now at the biggest membership we've been, certainly in all of my lifetime," he said.

"That membership wants and expects all of us - me as leader and members of Parliament, to work together in their interests, the interests of everyone in this country, to achieve a better society, better standards of living and real equality in the future.

"That's what the Labour Party stands for."

Mr Corbyn's message was compared to a "hostage video" by his critics, with one source dismissing the "continued acts of desperation" from the leader.

Earlier, Ms Eagle made clear she was ready to mount a leadership challenge if Mr Corbyn did not step down.

"There are many people, MPs, party members up and down the country, asking me to resolve the impasse and I will if something isn't done soon," she told Sky News.

"I have the support to run and resolve this impasse and I will do so if Jeremy doesn't take action soon."

The fear for the rebels seeking to oust Mr Corbyn is that if they do put up a challenger he could still win in a ballot of grassroots activists leaving him even more strongly entrenched in his position.

Meanwhile, it emerged that another frontbencher has quit following last week's mass resignations which saw more than 60 shadow ministers and parliamentary aides walk out in protest at his leadership.

Fabian Hamilton said he had told his Constituency Labour Party in Leeds North East he was standing down as a shadow Foreign Office minister as the party was divided and more than 80% of MPs no longer had any confidence in Mr Corbyn.

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