John McDonnell denies plotting to replace Jeremy Corbyn
John McDonnell today insisted he will not replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader - amid claims one of his allies is phoning Labour MPs trying to drum up support for him.
Senior Labour sources said Seema Malhotra, who is part of Mr McDonnell's shadow Treasury team, was contacting backbenchers to see if they would support her boss in a leadership contest if Mr Corbyn quits.
One shadow minister told PoliticsHome: "McDonnell is attempting a coup. Seema Malhotra has been canvassing support for him."
But on the BBC's Sunday Politics show, Mr McDonnell insisted the claims were untrue.
He said: "I will never stand for leadership of the Labour party. If Jeremy has to stand for another leadership election, I will chair his campaign and I think the Labour party members will elect him again – but I think that’s unnecessary.
"These next three months is key for the Labour party - we need to show we can lead this country and we need to hold together to do that."
Mr McDonnell added: "Seema has not spoken to me about this whatsoever and I am not standing to be leader of the Labour party, no matter what happens. Seema is a loyal supporter of Jeremy and always has been up until now."
The Shadow Chancellor said Labour MPs trying to unseat Mr Corbyn should "should calm down and listen to their members" - in what will be seen as a veiled threat that they could lose their seats if they do not.
He told them: "Let’s get back into the position of being a good opposition, but also please remember your responsibilities to the country. We’re in the most difficult circumstances at the moment, we’ve got to get the best deal in Europe and now is not the time for fragmenting.
"Respect the wishes of the members and in that way we can hold together and win the next election."
He added: "I know how disappointed people are at the loss of the European referendum. But now’s the time when we hold together. There’s no government in place, we need to provide that leadership.
"Listen to your party members, who voted for Jeremy in overwhelming numbers nine months ago, and hang together. That principle of Labour solidarity is key at this point in time."
But former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Mr Corbyn must be replaced.
He told ITV's Peston On Sunday: "There is going to need to be a change if Labour is to step up to the plate for the general election and before and show that it has a vision for the future, which is actually about both uniting the country and also being able to shape this negotiation.
“The reality is in the country, Jeremy Corbyn, at a time when you have a big divide between urban Britain which wanted in and heartlands and rural Britain which wanted out, Jeremy Corbyn’s actually managed to alienate both sides. He’s upset urban Britain by being anti-Europe and he’s upset the heartlands by saying no controls to migration."