It’s now official: Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has lost the support of his fellow Labour MPs. In a vote on Tuesday afternoon, Labour MPs approved a motion stating that they had lost confidence in Corbyn’s leadership by a margin of 172 to 40.
The ostensible reason for the mutiny against Corbyn is his tepid support for the Remain campaign in the June 23 referendum. But the more pressing concern is that it seems likely that a general election will be held at some point in the next year, and Labour MPs don’t believe he could lead the party to victory. Tony Blair’s former consigliere Alistair Campbell summed up the legislators’ worries in a Tuesday blog post: “[Corbyn] is great when telling the converted what they already think … but hopeless at winning over the people we are going to need to prevent an even bigger Tory majority in the coming election.”
The Labour Party’s post-Brexit travails have overshadowed the disarray in the ruling Conservative Party. Yesterday, as more than 20 members of Labour’s shadow Cabinet announced their resignations throughout the day, British news reports dedicated more time to Corbyn’s woes than to the confused and contradictory statements from the leaders of the Leave campaign.
On Tuesday morning, the pro-Labour Daily Mirror dedicated its entire front page to a photo of Corbyn with the brief editorial comment: “Britain is in crisis and now, more than ever, we need a strong & united Labour Party. So today we send this heartfelt message to Jeremy Corbyn. You are a decent man. But for the sake of your party … and for the sake of your country … GO NOW!”
Despite all these attempts to push him out the door, Corbyn seems determined to stay put. After Tuesday afternoon’s vote, he declared: “I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.”
Corbyn has claimed that if a new leadership election is held, he would automatically be one of the candidates. Other party members dispute this interpretation of the rules, and given his miserable lack of support on Tuesday, if his participation isn’t automatic, it seems possible that he won’t get the 50 signatures he would need to be nominated.
Among the MPs expected to challenge Corbyn are former ministers Angela Eagle, an out lesbian who enjoys a reputation as a strong debater in the House of Commons, and Yvette Cooper, who has served in various Cabinet and shadow Cabinet positions, including a stint as Britain’s first female chief secretary to the Treasury. Both of them face a significant hurdle in proving their electability, however: Cooper was soundly defeated by Corbyn in last year’s leadership election (she came in third, with 17 percent of the vote to his 59.5 percent), while Eagle placed fourth in the vote for deputy leader.