It’s not a suicide mission: Eagle swoops on Corbyn

Angela Eagle launches her Labour leadership bid at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London
Angela Eagle launches her Labour leadership bid at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London
6
Have your say

Angela Eagle insisted she has not embarked on a political “suicide mission” as she launched her bid to topple Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

The former shadow business secretary said she could make Labour electable again after the “howl of pain” expressed in the Brexit vote by people who felt they had been ignored for too long.

Shortest-serving Labour leaders

Shortest-serving Labour leaders

“I don’t go in for suicide missions,” Ms Eagle said when asked if her chances were doomed if Mr Corbyn is allowed on the ballot paper.

Ms Eagle insisted it was a matter for the party’s ruling National Executive Committee whether Mr Corbyn needed to be nominated by 51 MPs and MEPs to be allowed to stand as a candidate.

The ex-minister said she had no choice but to move against Mr Corbyn because Britain was in danger of becoming a “one-party Tory state” under his leadership.

Her bid looks set to trigger civil war within the party and comes after 172 Labour MPs indicated that they had no confidence in Mr Corbyn in a vote in which he garnered the support of just 40 Westminster colleagues.

Describing herself as a “practical socialist”, Ms Eagle said Mr Corbyn was not up to the job.

“He has been hiding behind a door not talking to his Members of Parliament - that’s not leadership. He’s opened the party to new ideas, but we need other people to take them forward. This isn’t about splitting the Labour Party, it is about creating a strong, united party.

“I am a person who brings people together, I don’t drive them apart. I will unite, I will not divide,” Ms Eagle said.

Ms Eagle has the backing of the 51 MPs needed for a formal challenge but it remains unclear whether Mr Corbyn will also have to secure the support of MPs in order to fight the leadership battle.

Meanwhile, Owen Smith, another potential leadership contender, expressed fears Mr Corbyn and his allies are prepared to split the party in order to remain in place.

In a further sign the party is on the verge of all-out civil war, Mr Smith said that at a meeting with Mr Corbyn he asked him three times whether he is prepared to see a split but “he offered no answer”, while the leader’s ally and shadow chancellor John McDonnell “shrugged his shoulders and said ‘if that’s what it takes’”.

Ms Eagle said she was ready to “take on all comers” for the leadership.

Asked if her persona was “too gloomy” to lead the party, Ms Eagle said: “Well, we all have our moments.”

Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol said: “I have now received sufficient nominations to trigger a contest for the position of leader of the Labour Party.

“I will now ask the chair of the National Executive Committee to convene a meeting to confirm arrangements for an election.”

The 55-year-old said her background as a “good, sensible, down-to-earth woman with Northern roots” would help her lead the party.

“I have got life experience and values. I’m a woman from the working class North; I understand metropolitan things too,” she said.

“I’m a gay woman - I know the difference between hope and fear.”

Meanwhile, Owen Smith, another potential leadership contender, is seeking crisis talks with Mr Corbyn as he claimed the leader and his allies are prepared to split the party in order to remain in place.

In a further sign the party is on the verge of all-out civil war, Mr Smith said that at a meeting with Mr Corbyn he asked him three times whether he is prepared to see a split but “he offered no answer”, while the leader’s ally and shadow chancellor John McDonnell “shrugged his shoulders and said ‘if that’s what it takes’”.

Mr Smith said: “I am not prepared to stand by and see our party split.”

Mr McDonnell said Mr Smith’s claim was “complete rubbish”, while Mr Corbyn told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend he would be happy to meet Mr Smith and said: “I’m not splitting anything.”

The leader and his allies have insisted the Labour rulebook means he will automatically be on the ballot and any challenger will have to secure the names of 51 MPs - 20% of the party’s parliamentarians in Westminster and Brussels - to be nominated.

But opponents have interpreted the document to mean that Mr Corbyn will also require the support of MPs to stand - something which is unlikely to happen.

If Mr Corbyn is automatically on the ballot, the support in the party’s grassroots which swept him to victory in 2015 could do so again - leaving his opponents facing an even deeper problem.

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will decide on the rules after a contest is formally triggered.

Ms Eagle said the rules are not clear on whether Mr Corbyn should be on the ballot, but told BBC One’s Sunday Politics: “Anyone who aspires to lead the parliamentary party who cannot get 51 members, 20% of the parliamentary party, to back them is not going to be able to do the job properly.”

On BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Corbyn said he would be prepared to go to court if the NEC ruled he would not automatically be on the leadership ballot.

“I will challenge that if that is the view they take,” he said.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, welcomes British Secretary of State David Davis for a meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday July 17, 2017.

David Davis issues 'clock ticking' warning in bid to speed up Brexit talks