Coup plot resigner wants to return focus to ‘our true enemy – the Tories’
THE COUP against Jeremy Corbyn stalled yesterday as Owen Smith stepped back from a leadership challenge.
The former shadow work and pensions secretary has amassed the necessary support among MPs to call a leadership poll — just nine months after Mr Corbyn was elected with 60 per cent support.
But Mr Smith has called on mutinous colleagues to give union-led peace talks “every chance to succeed” amid fears Labour is heading towards a repeat of the 1981 split over Europe that led to the creation of the SDP.
One source close to Mr Corbyn told the Star: “There are people who positively want a split because they want to defeat Jeremy at any cost.”
And Mr Smith said: ”Over the last week, I have been contacted by hundreds of Labour members and MPs deeply worried that the Labour Party is truly in danger of splitting apart. I share those fears and call on everyone in our movement to do all we can to avert such a disastrous outcome.”
On Wednesday, Mr Smith met with Mr Corbyn and spoke to Unite general secretary Len McCluskey to try to “heal the rifts that have opened up in our movement.”
Mr McCluskey had assured him the talks, in which deputy leader Tom Watson was representing MPs who want a change of leadership, have been “productive” and requested the weekend to try to find a resolution.
Mr Smith concluded: “I believe that all of us whose priority is to restore unity in the labour movement and give us a chance to defeat our only true enemy, the Tories, should give these talks every chance to succeed. That is what I intend to do and I urge all my colleagues to do likewise.”
Mr McCluskey welcomed his statement as “very helpful” and urged former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle, another potential candidate, to make a similar call for unity.
But Ms Eagle struck a bullish tone, saying: “The country doesn’t have an effective opposition at the moment. Jeremy needs to go.”
Mr Smith’s intervention may only provide a temporary reprieve to Mr Corbyn but momentum behind the leadership challenge has been waning over the past week — being branded a “chicken coup” on social media after so many false starts.
Mr Corbyn’s widely praised response to the publication of the Chilcot report dealt another blow to his detractors’ claims he is not fit to be leader of the opposition.
Speaking at a Momentum rally on Wednesday night, shadow business secretary Jon Trickett said: “The publication of the Chilcot report should remind all of us why Jeremy is our leader. Jeremy is a model of ethical and moral clarity as well as political determination.”
Mr Corbyn did not attend the rally because he was meeting with families of service people who died during the Iraq war.