Tom Watson says Labour is 'in peril' as Jeremy Corbyn refuses to quit

Posted On: 
29th June 2016

Labour was in complete meltdown tonight after Jeremy Corbyn rejected calls from senior figures across the party for him to stand down as leader.

Tom Watson said Jeremy Corbyn refused to discuss his leadership with him

Deputy leader Tom Watson said the party's very existence was "in peril" with Mr Corbyn in charge - but insisted he did not want to take over.

There was also confusion over whether former Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle would challenge the leader, or wait until he quits before throwing her hat into the ring.

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On another day of drama, four former Labour leaders - Margaret Beckett, Harriet Harman, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband - all said it was time for Mr Corbyn to stand down, as did David Cameron.

They were joined by all 20 of Labour's MEPs and more than 200 councillors and activists in Scotland.

Shadow Education Secretary Pat Glass also announced she was resigning - just two days after being given the job.

The developments came a day after three-quarters of Labour MPs voted for a motion of no confidence in Mr Corbyn.

One shadow minister told PoliticsHome: "Jeremy has said he'd welcome a leadership challenge. The mechanism is him resigning. Let's go, what are we waiting for?

"The majority of colleagues who yesterday said they had no confidence in him feel that he should resign and trigger a leadership contest, just like John Major did."

Speaking to the BBC, Tom Watson said he had tried to persuade Mr Corbyn to quit, but he had refused to discuss it.

"I just think he feels very strongly that he has that mandate from the members; he holds less weight on parliamentary politics and that’s where he is," he said. "He’s obviously being told to stay by his close ally John McDonnell and they’re a team and they have decided that they’re going to tough this out. So it looks like the Labour party is heading for some form of contested election."

He added: "My party is in peril. We are facing an existential crisis and I just don’t want us to be in this position because I think there are millions of people in the country who need a left-leaning government who can give people opportunity and right now we’re not doing that."

But Shadow Chancellor Mr McDonnell said Mr Corbyn was "buoyant".

He told Sky News: "He’s campaigning, he’s been doing his work here. He’s not going anywhere. He’s basically standing as the leader of the Labour party and if there is a contest he’ll be standing again."

PoliticsHome understands that several Shadow Cabinet members - including some on the party's left-wing - have tried to hold talks to persuade Mr Corbyn to quit throughout today, but have been rebuffed by Mr McDonnell and Seumas Milne, Labour's director of strategy and communications.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said today: "We're calling on the PLP to unite behind the democratically-elected leader of the party or call a leadership election."