Labour seeks leadership deal as Jeremy Corbyn stands his ground

Houses Of Parliament

Labour MPs supporting Jeremy Corbyn are urgently seeking ways to avoid a historic split after their leader’s refusal to resign set the party on track for a ferocious leadership battle.

The leader of Unite, Len McCluskey, described the coup attempt as a “political lynching” as he urged MPs to allow trade unions to broker a peace deal. However, he did not suggest that Corbyn should give in to demands to resign, calling the Labour leader a “man of steel”.

Other supporters of the leader said they were considering what type of deal might satisfy the party’s MPs, with more than three quarters supporting a vote of no confidence in Corbyn last week.

Party grandees including Lord Kinnock and at least one potential challenger to Corbyn, Angela Eagle, have continued to claim that support from the party’s members is ebbing away from the leader.

Reporter to Corbyn: ‘It feels like you’re running away from the media’

On Monday, Corbyn will be questioned by the home affairs select committee over allegations of antisemitism within the Labour party. Committee member Naz Shah and former London mayor Ken Livingstone were suspended from the Labour party in April for comments made regarding Zionism and the Holocaust.

On Sunday, there were some initial signs of a cooling off between Corbyn supporters and his opponents. Tom Watson, widely seen as a go-between from the parliamentary party (PLP) and the Corbyn-backing unions, is understood to have welcomed McCluskey’s comments, which are seen as a sign that a “negotiated settlement” of some sort may still be possible.

Some of Corbyn’s allies have discussed plans to win over MPs who have lost faith in the leadership and want to see a resignation.

One politician close to the leader told the Guardian it is “50-50” whether Corbyn would win again, but said that if he did then one option could be a collective leadership with a “kitchen cabinet” representing different wings of the party.

The phrase has been used in American and British politics to refer to a leader, such as David Cameron, being supported by an inner-circle of advisers, although in this case it would not necessarily be allies of Corbyn at the top table.

Under such a plan being discussed by some left-leaning MPs, Corbyn could become chairman rather than “supreme leader”.

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Another alternative is for him to assume a more presidential role, with a consensual leader of the PLP being appointed who would satisfy MPs.

A Corbyn-supporting MP said that would only work if the party accepted the leader’s “broad anti-austerity political and economic programme”. “This would be difficult for all sides but preferable to an historic split,” the source said.

A source close to Corbyn denied that the ideas were being considered but said there was effort being put into finding a peaceful solution, with a focus on whether new structures could be built around policymaking and the shadow cabinet that would appease MPs.

McCluskey, a prominent supporter of Corbyn, said the leader had been the victim of a “political lynching” and said it was “outrageous” that political grandees such as Kinnock were being dragged out to be part of this “unedifying coup”.

But, speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, he said trade unions could broker a peace, as he urged potential challengers Eagle and Owen Smith to step back. “The alternative if Angela goes ahead with this, and I hope she doesn’t, or Owen, is that we are plunged into a civil war that will be bitter and ugly and may never allow the Labour party to reunite again,” he said.

Emily Thornberry, the new defence minister and a close ally of Corbyn, urged MPs to “take a step back”. The new shadow foreign secretary told ITV’s Peston on Sunday: “I think the future of the country is at stake here.”

Others felt that Corbyn ought to stand down, but argued that if he didn’t there was still a chance that he would be defeated in a leadership contest. Although there appears to be new people registering to support leader,Kinnock said there had been a “significant shift” away from Corbyn among party members. “Members across the country have got deep residual doubts about the possibility of him leading the party to election victory,” he said.

Kinnock also argued that if Corbyn is challenged, he ought to have to collect nominations from MPs, as he had to in the late 1980s when Tony Benn took him on with the support of Labour’s current leader.

Corbyn’s team believe he will automatically be able to stand again, but his opponent’s strongly disagree. It seems unlikely that he would attract the backing of enough MPs if he has to seek their support.

Talking about the large numbers of people who paid £3 to become registered supporters of Labour to back Corbyn in last year’s election, Kinnock said they were “very welcome in the party” arguing that they brought energy and vibrancy.

“They’ve got to decide whether they are serious about putting their principles into power by democratic election under a leader that is credible in a party that is united, or whether they actually joined up to a social protest movement that is content to complain and to turn up at the funerals of communities and industries while the Conservatives have yet more decades of power,” Kinnock told the Andrew Marr show.

MPs involved in the attempted coup against Corbyn have suggested that the only solution is for him to step down as leader.

“If not, and if he wins again, then this no confidence show will simply happen again and again,” said one MP.

A source close to Eagle said she is still ready to stand and hopes Corbyn will step down this week.

Corbyn has also hit back, telling his party’s MPs that they should “respect democracy”, stressing that he was elected by 60% of Labour members and supporters just nine months ago.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, he added: “I am ready to reach out to Labour MPs who didn’t accept my election and oppose my leadership – and work with the whole party to provide the alternative the country needs.”

However, aides were unable to add details to how Corbyn might be able to reach a consensus, while MPs opposing him said there was no substance in the Sunday Mirror article, and called on him to show leadership and respond to the overwhelming vote of no confidence among MPs last week.

Rumours surrounding Corbyn’s leadership this weekend have continued. His spokesman has been forced to deny claims that Corbyn had a “Wednesday wobble” over his position after prime minister’s questions last week, and that a senior aide had drawn up a five-point extraction plan for the beleaguered leader.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Anushka Asthana and Rajeev Syal, for The Guardian on Sunday 3rd July 2016 21.21 Europe/London

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