Corbyn vows to fight on as he faces more shadow cabinet resignations


Jeremy Corbyn is digging in for a bitter Westminster war of attrition with Labour MPs as he banks on grass roots supporters saving his leadership of the party.

The under-fire Labour leader pledged to ride out the crisis caused by a mass walk-out of the shadow cabinet as he warned would-be challengers he will not go down without a fight.

Braced for yet more top team resignations after 11 shadow ministers turned their backs on him after he fired Hilary Benn for plotting to topple him, Mr Corbyn insisted he would not "betray" the Labour members who elected him last September.

"I was elected by hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics.

"I regret there have been resignations today from my shadow cabinet. But I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me - or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them.

"Those who want to change Labour's leadership will have to stand in a democratic election, in which I will be a candidate," he announced in a bid to try and quell the open revolt against him.

The flurry of resignations saw the party's blunt speaking deputy leader Tom Watson insist he would "discuss the way forward" with Mr Corbyn at a face to face meeting after a day of high drama at Westminster saw a third of Labour's top team quit.

A stinging parting shot from former shadow leader of the Commons, Chris Bryant, warned Mr Corbyn that he was in danger of going down in history as "the man who broke the Labour Party". 

And prominent backbench MP Stephen Kinnock insisted Mr Corbyn would cost the party 60 seats at a possible snap autumn general election.

"I think there's a real risk that if we go into a general election before the end of this year with Jeremy as our leader we will lose somewhere between 30 and 60 trusted and valued colleagues," he told BBC Radio Four's The Westminster Hour.

As the crisis unfolded, Mr Corbyn met shadow chancellor John McDonnell, election co-ordinator Jon Trickett, and strategy director Seamus Milne, to discuss the mass resignations.

A source close to shadow business secretary Angela Eagle, who has not resigned, said: "She is heartbroken about the position in which the party finds itself and desperately worried we're failing to connect with communities across the country."

A series of senior trade unionists on Labour's ruling national executive committee rallied in support of Mr Corbyn - including Unite leader Len McCluskey and Dave Ward of the Communication Workers Union.

And leadership loser and shadow home secretary Andy Burnham refused to take part in any attempt to unseat Mr Corbyn.

However Mr Corbyn now faces a vote of no confidence which will be discussed at the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party at Westminster on Monday with a secret ballot of MPs expected the following day.

The move is symbolic but may trigger a stalking horse candidate to emerge, or a full blown challenge.

Mr McDonnell insisted loyalists were ready for a two month leadership battle as he warned would-be opponents that a 200,000 signature petition supporting Mr Corbyn proved how popular he remained with party members who have the ultimate say.