Angela Eagle: Corbyn is failing to offer ‘effective alternative’ to Tories

Angela Eagle Ministerial Portrait

Angela Eagle says she is challenging Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of the Labour party because he is failing to offer an “effective” alternative to the Conservative government.

In a series of interviews, the former shadow business secretary played down any policy differences she has had with Corbyn and instead put competence at the centre of her challenge, arguing that Corbyn was incapable of doing his job.

“I don’t want this to be an issue about individual policies,” she told ITV’s Peston on Sunday. “It’s about effective leadership and whether we can return to government.”

Eagle, who will formally launch her leadership bid on Monday, explained that she had decided to challenge Corbyn because although he was “not a bad man”, he was also “not a leader”.

She explained: “[Corbyn] doesn’t connect with Labour voters, he doesn’t connect enough to win an election and he doesn’t reach out in any meaningful way to other parts of the party. He’s lost the confidence of his parliamentary colleagues and I really think now the time is for him to consider his position.

Eagle said that Tom Watson, the deputy leader, Rosie Winterton, the chief whip, and John Cryer, the chair of the parliamentary Labour party, had all been trying to get Corbyn to resign since he lost a no-confidence motion of Labour MPs on 28 June by 172 votes to 40.

But, she said, Corbyn was “hiding behind a closed door denying that this is a fact. That’s not leadership.” She also claimed that her move would unite the party.

“The country has now got huge challenges post the EU referendum vote. This was a fight in the Tory party that has now ripped our society apart, it’s threatening our economy and it’s hurting people,” she said.

“This is not about splitting the Labour party, this is about uniting the Labour party so that we can heal the divisions that six years of Conservative government have been actually visited upon the most vulnerable areas represented by Labour MPs.”

Eagle is on Labour’s soft left, unlike Corbyn who is identified with the hard left, but in her interviews she declined to identify any Corbyn policies with which she disagreed. She stressed her opposition to austerity economics, and said she entered politics because her working-class parents had their opportunities blocked “because we didn’t have a society that helped working-class people get on”.

However, she did reveal a key difference with Corbyn when asked aboutthe proposal for a House of Commons vote this week on a motion of contempt against Tony Blair, accusing him of misleading MPs about Iraq.

Corbyn told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday that he probably would vote in favour of this. Eagle said she regretted voting for the Iraq war in 2003, but she also hinted that she would not back the contempt motion.

Explaining that she had not yet seen the motion, she told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “We have to make certain that we don’t spend our time in parliament just exacting revenge. I think Tony Blair has been put, rightly, through the mill about the decisions he took. The Chilcot report did that. We would be far better learning the lessons and making certain that we don’t fall into the same mistakes if – God forbid – there should be a future decision where these decisions are made.”

Eagle also said that she thought Corbyn should have to secure the nominations of 51 MPs and MEPs to be allowed to stand in the leadership contest, although she accepted this was a decision for Labour’s national executive committee. Corbyn says he should be on the ballot automatically.

Eagle has also refused to commit herself to serving in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet if he won. Asked what she would do in those circumstances, she said she was not contemplating losing.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Andrew Sparrow Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Sunday 10th July 2016 15.11 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010