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Unite calls for mandatory re-selection of Labour MPs

Published 14/07/2016

Owen Smith is to challenge for the Labour leadership.
Owen Smith is to challenge for the Labour leadership.

Tensions in the Labour Party escalated further as the Unite union called for the mandatory re-selection of all MPs.

Delegates at the union's conference in Brighton passed a motion demanding the controversial move which MPs opposed to embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn fear would be used to launch a purge against them.

The union also overwhelmingly voiced support for Mr Corbyn as he faces attempts to try to oust him.

The move came as the party confirmed that the winner of the leadership contest triggered by challenges to Mr Corbyn from Angela Eagle and Owen Smith would be announced on September 24.

Nominations for the election close on July 20, and there is a two day window between July 18 to 20 for people to pay £25 to register to vote in the contest, with ballot papers being mailed from August 22.

The leadership battle has already been mired in controversy even before it has officially started with the party's governing National Executive Committee deciding at a tense meeting to automatically allow Mr Corbyn to go on the ballot paper without requiring the nominations of 51 MPs and MEPs that challengers must obtain.

The decision is being challenged in the High Court by Labour donor Michael Foster who wants it overturned.

"It's about the rule of law. There were three bits of legal advice from different QCs, all of which were contrarian and none of the people in the room were unbiased in the view of that advice. The advice that was taken was certainly not given the expert consideration that it would receive from a High Court judge and everyone in the room had a different political agenda," he told the BBC.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said: "This legal challenge is very unhelpful and destabilising to the Labour Party."

The row came as Labour's crisis was laid bare in a poll which found a majority of Britons believe the party needs a new leader before the next general election and remain unconvinced by Mr Corbyn or challenger Ms Eagle.

Two thirds (66%) believe Labour needs to change its leader before the 2020 general election, up from 42% in October, in a sign of growing discontent with Mr Corbyn's leadership.

That includes a majority of Labour voters, with 54% backing a change against 41% who want Mr Corbyn to remain in place, according to the Ipsos Mori poll.

To compound matters for the party, only 23% think the current leader has what it takes to be prime minister, with even less (21%) agreeing Ms Eagle would make a good PM.

The poll was conducted before former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith joined the leadership race.

The candidates will hold their first hustings at a meeting of Labour MPs and MEPs next Monday.

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