12 union bosses throw their weight behind Jeremy Corbyn amid overthrow bid
Bosses of the UK’s biggest trade unions have thrown their weight behind Jeremy Corbyn in a bid to stop the under-fire left-winger being deposed.
Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party was left hanging in the balance this afternoon after two senior MPs launched a dramatic bid to dump him.
Former minister Margaret Hodge and Stockport MP Ann Coffey tabled a motion of no confidence in him as anger mounted over his conduct in the EU referendum campaign.
But the general secretaries of 12 unions, including Len McCluskey of Unite, Dave Prentis of Unison and Tim Roache of GMB, warned MPs off staging a “manufactured leadership row”.
In language echoing a similar challenge dismissal by the leader’s office, the union bosses said such a move by the Parliamentary Labour Party would be an “indulgence”.
“In the absence of a government that puts the people first Labour must unite as a source of national stability and unity,” they said in a joint statement.
“It should focus on speaking up for jobs and workers’ rights under threat, and on challenging any attempt to use the referendum result to introduce a more right-wing Tory government by the back door.
“The last thing Labour needs is a manufactured leadership row of its own in the midst of this crisis and we call upon all Labour MPs not to engage in any such indulgence.”
The statement was also signed by general secretaries of the Communication Workers Union, Ucatt, and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.
The Fire Brigades Union, Musicians’ Union, Bectu, BFAWU and the National Union of Mineworkers were also signatories.
'JEREMY FAILED THE TEST'
The no confidence motion will be debated at Monday night's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party and followed by a secret ballot of MPs the following day.
PoliticsHome revealed this morning that some frontbenchers were preparing to call on Mr Corbyn to quit, while at least 55 Labour MPs are set to put their name to the letter urging him to stand down.
MPs have also been angered by a media briefing note sent to them at 6am claiming that as a lifelong eurosceptic, Mr Corbyn was "far closer to the centre of gravity of the British public".
The Labour leader's performance in a round of media interviews this morning, in which he called for the Government to immediately invoke Article 50 - triggering Britain's exit from the EU within two years - has also been roundly criticised.
Esteemed Labour MP Ms Hodge said: “I think the European referendum was a test of leadership and Jeremy failed that test.
“He came out too slowly, he was very half-hearted about his attempts to campaign and Labour voters simply didn’t get the message.”
Former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie said Mr Corbyn “does need to consider his position and think about whether he should do the honourable thing”.
And former minister Ben Bradshaw said Mr Corbyn’s leadership had been “abysmal” during the referendum campaign.
But Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said there was “no question” of the leftwinger resigning and urged the party’s MPs to rally around him.
“At a time of a momentous decision by the British people, it's not the time to create divisions," the spokesman said.
"It's the time to unite and ensure Labour represent the people's wish and to hold the government to account on their exit negotiations, ensuring working people are defended.”
Meanwhile a petition seeking to head off a challenge to his leadership has received more than 73,000 signatures in less than three hours.
The appeal, which calls on supporters to “make your voice heard against the Blairites” was set up in response to the moves in the PLP to topple the left-winger.