'Nothing to fear' - Lucy Powell argues Jeremy Corbyn can be beaten in leadership battle
A senior Labour MP has argued the party has “nothing to fear” if Jeremy Corbyn is on the ballot in a leadership contest, claiming the left-winger is shedding membership support.
Lucy Powell said backing from the membership base that installed the leader last September was “falling - and falling very quickly indeed”.
Her comments come as a crunch meeting with Labour bosses, that will dictate the next steps for the embattled leader, gets underway.
The party’s ruling National Executive Committee will this afternoon decide whether Mr Corbyn will be automatically on the ballot paper or not in a leadership election.
Former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle has already launched her challenge to Mr Corbyn, while former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith is expected to do the same.
Critics argue Labour rules dictate Mr Corbyn needs the support of 51 Labour MPs and MEPs in order to be on the ballot - but his supporters dispute the claim.
Speaking today, former shadow education secretary Ms Powell - who quit her role alongside more than 60 others in protest at Mr Corbyn’s leadership - said he could be beaten regardless.
“I think the support for him amongst party members is falling - and is falling very quickly indeed if you look at the polling that is happening amongst party members, amongst trade union affiliates, what’s coming up from the grassroots,” she told the BBC’s Daily Politics.
She added: “I’ve had many, many emails and phone calls from people who voted for Jeremy last year who now think that it is untenable that he can continue without the support of his parliamentary colleagues.”
However she argued the Labour rulebook was “pretty clear” that Mr Corbyn should be excluded from the ballot unless he could secure the nominations.
She added that those who made the rules “would have never imagined a circumstance where a leader of the Labour party was seeking to continue on the basis of having less than 20% support of his MPs”.
Elsewhere, Lord Collins, who helped write the current Labour rules, said all candidates - including the leader - must “meet the test of eligibility” by securing the nominations.
The peer, who was Labour’s general secretary in 2010, told Radio 4's World at One the rule was designed to ensure any elected leader had significant support among the parliamentary party.
But lawyers for the Unite union have argued it was “crystal clear” the need for 20% support of MPs and MEPs was for challengers but not the incumbent.
The union says Mr Corbyn must be on the ballot paper and has made clear legal action will be sought if not.
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced that an aide to Mr Corbyn tried to sack critic and MP Jon Ashworth from the NEC last night - but the move was overruled by the Shadow Cabinet.
Mr Corbyn has refused to quit as leader despite more than 60 shadow ministers resigning the Labour frontbench in an attempt to force him out, plus an overwhelming vote of no confidence from his own MPs.
Veteran left-winger Paul Flynn has apparently become the latest of Mr Corbyn’s MPs to call for him to quit.
Launching her bid to topple Mr Corbyn yesterday, Ms Eagle argued the embattled leader was unable to “provide the leadership” to win a general election.