Will Jeremy Corbyn resign?
Shadow chancellor accused of behind-the-scenes coup, amid claims Corbyn is preparing to step down
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has been accused of orchestrating a silent coup against Jeremy Corbyn to make him Labour leader in all but name.
The Sunday Times says McDonnell has “put himself in daily charge of the Labour operation as the party moves to an election footing”. Party insiders also claim the shadow chancellor has “launched his own policy platform and drawn up a list of appointments he wants in the leader of the opposition’s office, known as LOTO, to surround Corbyn with his allies”.
“McDonnell is now basically the leader of the Labour Party,” one source told the newspaper. “It’s a silent coup. He’s getting his own people in, isolating and picking off the old guard around Corbyn.”
Will Corbyn resign?
The coup rumours come amid growing speculation Corbyn is preparing to stand down. Facing historic low polling numbers, and unabating criticism of his Brexit strategy and handling of the anti-semitism scandal, loyalists say he is facing enormous pressure and could be ready to pack it in.
A series of failed attempts to remove his detractors within the party – most notably trying to abolish deputy leader Tom Watson’s post – combined with the departure of some of his closest aides have further weakened the Labour leader over the past month.
With a general election expected before Christmas, even the most ardent Corbyn supporters agree that if Labour do not emerge as the largest party in Parliament, he would have no choice but to resign.
McDonnell suggested as much in an interview with GQ magazine last week in which he said in the event the party lost the election both he and Corbyn would leave their front line posts.
Will McDonnell become the next leader?
While he has ruled out standing himself, McDonnell will nevertheless have a key role in deciding who should replace Corbyn. He has said the next Labour leader must be a woman, name-checking shadow education secretary Angela Rayner as a potential successor.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, “who has been touted as the natural heir to Mr Corbyn” reports The Daily Telegraph, has also been vocal in calling for change at the top if the party loses the next election.
“That is convention within the party," she told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, all but confirming she would throw her hat into the ring in the event of a leadership contest.
Another potential contender, Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips, has also called for Corbyn should quit as leader if Labour is not the largest party in the Commons after the next general election
According to The Independent, Phillips - described as “a critic of Mr Corbyn” - said she “might” make a bid for the party’s top job if she believes she can make a difference when the time comes.
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What does it mean for Brexit?
The ongoing internal power struggle could have far-reaching implications beyond the Labour party.
The Guardian reports that Corbyn “has poured cold water on the idea that Labour could support a bid to attach a referendum to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal at next Saturday’s emergency sitting of parliament”.
However, McDonnell “is seen as being far more sympathetic to demands for a second referendum than Corbyn”, says the Sunday Times, meaning attempts to amend the deal to include a confirmatory referendum could succeed.
In the series of indicative votes in April, proposals for a second referendum lost by 12 votes. Since then, The Daily Telegraph reports “a number of Tories who abstained on the vote as they were members of Theresa May's government are now either on the backbenchers or have lost the party whip, meaning the parliamentary arithmetic around the proposal could be vastly different”.
The Telegraph has been told of at least seven Tory MPs who previously abstained who are now warming to the idea of a second referendum as a way of breaking the Brexit impasse.