Jeremy Corbyn refuses to say he would stand down as Labour leader if he loses second election
Jeremy Corbyn has refused to say he would stand down as Labour leader even if he loses the next election.
His comments contradict his shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who said both he and his boss would quit if they failed to get into Government.
The comments expose further splits at the top of the party, after accusations Mr McDonnell is leading a “silent coup” to usurp his old ally as leader.
Asked in an interview whether it would be “possible” for Mr Corbyn to continue in the top job in the wake of a second election defeat, Mr McDonnell said: “I can't see...I think it is the same for my own personal position, I can't see so.
“What we'd do is as the tradition, which is have an election for a new leader.”
He also said the next leader has to be a woman, saying: “If you look at the new youngsters that have come through, they are fantastic.”
One of those female shadow cabinet ministers touted to take over from Mr Corbyn, Rebecca Long-Bailey, backed Mr McDonnell’s comments.
She told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think that it would fantastic for the next Labour leader to be a woman…it’s a hypothetical situation at the moment.
“We’re fighting for a general election to elect Jeremy Corbyn as our Prime Minister and we think we’re in touching distance of that, but I think it’s right for John to say that in the event of us losing an election that they would stand aside.
“That is convention within the party that’s usually what happens.”
But speaking on Sky News earlier, Mr Corbyn would not make that commitment, saying Labour “are not expecting to lose the next election”.
He said it was a hypothetical question, adding it’s “up to the members of our party to decide who the leader is”.
Pressed on Mr McDonnell’s words, he said “John gave an answer,” and said his own answer was that he was “leading this party to go into an election”.
And he refused to agree his successor should be a woman, saying there should be female candidates, but adding: “I’m not into the business of ordaining people”.
The divisions come after The Sunday Times reported that Mr McDonnell has put himself in daily charge of the Labour operation and launched his own policy platform.
One insider told the paper: “McDonnell is now basically the leader of the Labour Party.
“It’s a silent coup. He’s getting his own people in, isolating and picking off the old guard around Corbyn.”
And the Mail on Sunday quotes party insiders saying a “tired” Mr Corbyn is preparing to step back as leader and is happy for his long-term ally to “run the show”.
It comes after suggestions the Shadow Chancellor was behind the decision to move Karie Murphy, a key Corbyn aide, out of the leader’s office.