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West Brom’s Watson in showdown talks with Corbyn as shadow cabinet crisis continues

West Brom’s Watson in showdown talks with Corbyn as shadow cabinet crisis continues

🕔27.Jun 2016

Tom Watson was heading for crisis talks with Jeremy Corbyn today as the list of resignations from Labour’s shadow cabinet and ministerial team grew even longer.

A third of the shadow cabinet, 11 members, resigned yesterday following Mr Corbyn’s sacking of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, and this morning shadow armed forces minister Toby Perkins also quit along with Chris Matheson, parliamentary private secretary to the Labour leader.

Minutes later, shadow foreign minister Diana Johnson resigned along with shadow minister for civil society Anna Turley.

As many as 20 front benchers are believed to be ready to resign today in advance of a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party tonight where Mr Corbyn will face a vote of no confidence from MPs.

Mr Corbyn, who has vowed to carry on, announced replacements for the shadow cabinet members who quit.

Emily Thornberry is the new shadow foreign secretary, Diane Abbott shadow health secretary, Pat Glass shadow education secretary, Andy McDonald shadow transport secretary, Clive Lewis shadow defence secretary, Rebecca Long shadow treasury secretary, Kate Osmar shadow international development secretary, Rachael Maskell shadow environment secretary, and Dave Anderson shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.

Mr Watson, the deputy Labour leader and MP for West Bromwich East, left the Glastonbury festival early yesterday as the sheer scale of the rebellion against Mr Corbyn became clear.

He issued a statement expressing his disappointment with the sacking of Mr Benn and stressed that Labour “must be ready to form a government”.

Mr Watson said:

I was deeply disappointed to see Hilary Benn sacked in the early hours of this morning and equally saddened that so many talented, able and hard-working colleagues felt they had to leave the shadow cabinet.

My single focus is to hold the Labour party together in very turbulent times. The nation needs an effective opposition, particularly as the current leadership of the country is so lamentable.

It’s very clear to me that we are heading for an early general election and the Labour party must be ready to form a government. There’s much work to do. I will be meeting Jeremy Corbyn tomorrow morning to discuss the way forward.

The criticism of the Labour leader has been fierce, with Chris Bryant, who quit as shadow leader of the Commons, warning that, unless he stood down, Mr Corbyn would “go down in history as the man who broke the Labour party”.

Dozens more MPs in junior shadow ministerial positions are expected to resign today in a bid to convince Mr Corbyn to leave his post, while reports suggest that shadow business secretary Angela Eagle could also quit.

Late last night, the embattled leader issued a statement warning that if the rebels wanted to depose him they would have to launch a formal leadership contest – and that he would stand again.

MPs will debate a motion of no confidence in Mr Corbyn today, before a secret ballot tomorrow.

However, the mechanism for removing him requires them to get behind an alternative candidate who would then be put to party members.

Mr Corbyn said:

I was elected by hundreds of thousands of Labour party members and supporters with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics.

I regret there have been resignations today from my Shadow Cabinet. But I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me – or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them.

Those who want to change Labour’s leadership will have to stand in a democratic election, in which I will be a candidate.

Over the next 24 hours I will reshape my Shadow Cabinet and announce a new leadership team to take forward Labour’s campaign for a fairer Britain – and to get the best deal with Europe for our people.

Up to 150 Labour MPs face defeat if the new Tory leader calls a snap general election, according to research seen by PoliticsHome.

The MPs – who make up nearly two-thirds of the parliamentary Labour party – all represent constituencies which voted Leave at last week’s EU referendum.

They include former leader Ed Miliband and other high-profile figures including Stephen Kinnock, Michael Dugher, Yvette Cooper, Maria Eagle and Andy Burnham.

Party insiders said the findings showed they would all be at risk of losing to either Ukip or the Conservatives at the next election, which is now widely expected before the end of the year.

One senior Labour source told PoliticsHome that the research showed why Jeremy Corbyn – accused by many within the party of a lacklustre attempt to persuade voters to back Remain last week – needed to be replaced.

The source said:

Threats of de-selection from Len McCluskey and Momentum are meaningless if MPs’ seats are already at grave risk under Jeremy Corbyn.

MPs and party members were already worried about their prospects at the next election under Jeremy Corbyn, but unless MPs take action now the party could face a wipeout in a snap election.

One MP said:

You only have to look at Scotland to see that no Labour seat is safe, regardless of how big the majority is. Basically, no seat north of North London is safe right now.

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