Pressure grows on Corbyn amid anger at Leave win

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on College Green in Westminster, London, after Britain voted to leave the European Union
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on College Green in Westminster, London, after Britain voted to leave the European Union
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Jeremy Corbyn faces building pressure to quit the Labour leadership as the fallout from the Remain campaign’s defeat in the EU referendum continues.

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 Corbyn and question his leadership abilities.

With the financial consequences of Brexit causing increasing concern as influential credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded the UK’s outlook to “negative”, EU leaders hardened their stance to force Britain out of the union as fast as possible, while the White House insisted President Barack Obama stood by his controversial warning that London would be at the back of the queue for any trade deals.

Westminster speculation that Mr Corbyn could use a speech on the aftermath of the referendum to announce his resignation was denied by Labour, despite many of the party’s pro-Remain MPs expressing despair at what they see as his lacklustre performance in the campaign, ahead of a no confidence vote against him next week.

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Mr Field said the Labour leader grasped voters’ concern about globalisation, but drowned this out with “clap-trap”, and could never win a possible snap general election in the autumn.

“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,” Mr Field told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.

Moody’s downgraded prospects for the UK economy because Brexit heralds “a prolonged period of uncertainty”, saying it would have implications for the country’s medium-term growth.

The move came as Brussels ratcheted up the pressure on Mr Cameron to abandon his stance of not opening exit negotiations until he formally hands over to power to his successor by October.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker insisted it was “not an amicable divorce”, before adding sharply that it was never “a tight love affair anyway”.

“Britons decided that they want to leave the European Union, so it doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try to negotiate the terms of their departure - I would like to get started immediately,” he said.

The comments came as a prominent Leave advocate, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, came under fire for saying a post-Brexit Britain could still join the single market with its free movement of labour rules.

Mr Hannan claimed this was not a backtrack on campaign promises as he insisted the Leave side had promised to control immigration, not end it.

However, Tory former chancellor Ken Clarke warned against a lurch to right-wing nationalism in the party as he attacked Ukip immigration policies.

As the shockwaves from the 52% to 48% Brexit win continued to reverberate, Tory Remain backers were getting behind Home Secretary Theresa May as the best placed candidate for a leadership battle with ex-London mayor Boris Johnson.

Scotland’s SNP government was also launching a diplomatic offensive on the continent to remind EU chiefs that Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay in the bloc.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear she intends to use the referendum results to try to force a second independence vote when the negotiating situation becomes clearer.

Britain’s new status in the departure lounge of the EU was underlined by the exclusion of Mr Cameron from a meeting of the other 27 leaders next Wednesday to discuss the implications of Brexit.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, London has the right to decide when it triggers Article 50, which begins the two-year exit negotiation period.

Senior Labour backbencher Dame Margaret Hodge has tabled a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, her office has said

Although the motion has no formal status it is expected to form the the basis of a discussion in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said he was “not surprised” at the move and called on Mr Corbyn to consider his position.

“I would say today he does need to consider his position and think about whether he should do the honourable thing,” he said.

“Every MP is going to have to search their conscience about it but I think I would need an awful lot of persuading to have confidence in Jeremy’s leadership going into a general election.”

Former Labour minister and EU commissioner Lord Mandelson also said the referendum campaign showed Mr Corbyn “can’t cut it” as leader.

Mr Corbyn, a long-time Eurosceptic, defended his conduct amid criticisms that he offered no more than lukewarm support for Remain, blaming Government austerity cuts for alienating voters.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government will draw up legislation to allow a second independence referendum to be held.

While the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU, Scots overwhelmingly opted to remain, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declaring the result meant there had been a “significant and material change in the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence” in 2014.

She said: “As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable.”

In London, Mr Corbyn’s allies sought to strengthen his position by stressing that his natural scepticism to the EU left him well-placed for the challenges ahead.

However, Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith said: “I think my feeling is Jeremy Corbyn needs to bear his share of the responsibility for the way in which he led the EU referendum campaign from a Labour perspective.”

The former shadow minister said Mr Corbyn should also assess his performance, adding: “He really ought to consider his position.”

Her comments were echoed by Vote Leave chairman and Labour MP Gisela Stuart, although she did not name the Labour leader.

Ms Smith said she did not want to put a time frame on when Mr Corbyn should come to a decision although said “a lot” of her colleagues in Parliament will feel “disturbed” by the referendum result.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, a former Labour frontbencher, admitted the party failed to get its pro-Remain message over to its core supporters.

She said Labour activists had found people unaware there was a referendum even as the country went to the polls.

The former Shadow Environment Secretary argued the result had revealed major divisions across British society.

During the course of the referendum campaign, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was repeatedly criticised from within his own ranks over his lacklustre approach to rallying support for Remain.

Ms Creagh told The Yorkshire Post: “I think this is result is a demonstration of a deeply divided country, divided along geographical lines, divided between town and city, city and countryside divided along age lines, gender lines.

“I think those divisions have been exacerbated by the Conservatives decision to hold a referendum and I think that the Labour Party failed to get a clear message across to our voters that we were for remain clearly enough and early enough in the campaign.”

She added: “We were talking to Labour voters all this afternoon but there were still far too many people who were unaware there was a referendum and unaware of Labour’s position.

“And its not because they haven’t had leaflets and its not because we haven’t phoned tham and it’s not because we haven’t campaigned. We are seeing some people detaching.

“We will have a big national conversation to take the country forward, how we heal those divisions but clearly in a context of much economic and political turbulence.”

Ms Creagh said the Remain campaign had struggled to compete with the simple messages offered by Vote Leave.

She said: “We fought a positive campaign talking about the economy, jobs, the risk to wages, the risk of prices going up, the danger to public services particularly if we have another recession but I’m afraid the Leave campaign narrative on immigration, take control, had a simplicity that clearly resonated with people who have had a very difficult eight years after the global recession and feel that mainstream politics has let them down.”

With the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs backing In, there was raw anger among some as it became clear the vote had gone against them.

MPs complained the party was “out of touch” as its traditional northern strongholds voted comfortably for Leave.

Frontbencher Chris Bryant turned on former leader Ed Miliband, whose overhaul of the party’s rule book was widely seen to have paved the way for Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader.

“I might go and punch him because he’s a tosspot and he left the party in the state it’s in,” he said.

Lord Mandelson warned a new Tory leader will seek to hold a general election.

Asked if Mr Corbyn would be the Labour leader to fight the next election, Lord Mandelson replied: “My answer, I’m afraid, is that what I think has become clear to many in the party during this referendum campaign is that Jeremy can’t cut it.”

A senior Labour source said the mood within the party was one of “utter devastation, despair, horror - pick your own adjective” and there was “some anger against Jeremy, but there always is”.

The source said they were not aware of any well-organised plot to attempt to oust the leader, although there were reports of a letter signed by Labour MPs calling for his head.

The source added: “The simple fact remains that if you hijack a national tragedy to try to get rid of a leader you don’t like, it looks self-serving.”

Earlier, Mr Corbyn defended his performance, saying: “A lot of the message that has come back from this is that many communities are fed up with cuts, they are fed up with economic dislocation and feel very angry at the way they have been betrayed and marginalised by successive governments in very poor areas of the country.

“The point I was making was there were good things that had come from Europe in working conditions and environmental protections but there were other issues that had not been addressed properly.”