In Brief

Jeremy Corbyn is a 'disaster', says Stephen Hawking

World-renowned physicist calls for Labour Leader to step down 'for the sake of the party'

Why Jeremy Corbyn would survive a post-election coup attempt

4 May

Jeremy Corbyn's opponents will not mount a post-election coup after polls revealed it would be impossible to beat the Labour leader, it was reported today.

"MPs who are unhappy with Corbyn are indicating in private they do not believe it is the right time," The Guardian says.

Labour is preparing for tomorrow's national and local elections, which come after a turbulent time for the party leader, who faced criticism over his handling of the anti-Semitism row last week.

However, surveys show Corbyn still enjoys overwhelming support among Labour members. Joe Twyman, from YouGov, says he remains "a country mile" ahead of other potential candidates.

If challenged, Corbyn would win 43 per cent of first preference votes, according to polls. This would increase to 62 per cent when second and third preferences are taken into account.

"The bottom line is that those eligible to vote in the Labour party leadership election strongly supported Jeremy Corbyn last year and that has not significantly changed," says Twyman.

"So far, no alternative candidate appears to have attracted anything like the kind of support and momentum needed to defeat him. Any challenger at this stage is only likely to be at best a stalking horse and at worse little more than a pursuant pony."

Commentators also point out that there is little appetite among the party to launch a coup before the European Union referendum in June.

Corbyn himself dismissed reports of an imminent leadership challenge as an obsession of "the golden circle of the media establishment" and said he was confident Labour would not lose seats in tomorrow's elections. 

"One thing is certain: no matter what the Labour party achieves, Jeremy Corbyn's position is safe," Liam Young argues in the New Statesman.

But Channel 4's Gary Gibbons says it still depends on who you talk to on the Labour benches. Although "quite a few" Labour MPs are confident their colleagues won't mount a coup, there are still some who would try to oust Corbyn even if it looks like he would defend his position, he says.

But one unnamed politician, who has been a vocal critic of the leader, told The Guardian: "Being honest, I think that most of the party's membership, if not enthusiastic, still thinks that he deserves more time."

Jeremy Corbyn denies Labour is suffering an 'anti-Semitism crisis'

29 April

Jeremy Corbyn has denied Labour has an anti-Semitism problem after Ken Livingstone was accused of being a "Nazi apologist" by a fellow MP.

The party "descended into civil war" yesterday, with Livingstone suspended over a radio interview he had given defending Naz Shah, the party's MP for Bradford West, reports the Daily Mail.

Referring to Shah's suspension over a post on social media in 2014 calling for Israel to "relocate" to the US, Livingstone told the BBC: "Let's remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this is before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."

The former London mayor also claimed there was a "very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic".

His comments led to calls for him to be expelled from the party and a very public confrontation on live TV with Labour MP John Mann, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism, who told Livingstone he was a "disgrace" and a "Nazi apologist".

According to the Daily Telegraph, 39 backbenchers and members of the shadow cabinet have attacked Corbyn's handling of the scandal, complaining that he took more than five hours to respond to the crisis.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said the allegations of anti-Semitism had "not been dealt with properly and quickly enough" and need to be tackled "much more speedily in the future".

However, Corbyn insists "there is no crisis".

He said: "We are totally opposed to anti-Semitism in any form within the party. The very small number of cases that have been brought to our attention have been dealt with swiftly and immediately and they will be."

He added that he suspected much of the criticism "actually comes from those who are nervous of the strength of the Labour Party at local level".

The BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said that while no one believes Corbyn himself tolerates discrimination against Jews, Labour has repeatedly been "slow and clumsy" in closing down cases of anti-Semitism among its members when they emerge.

"With only a week before Jeremy Corbyn's first big test at the polls, it's the kind of mess, and political distraction, Labour could do without," she says. 

Does Labour have an anti-Semitism problem?

28 April

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing fresh criticism after one of his MPs was suspended over comments she made about Israel. 

MP for Bradford West Naz Shah had shared a post on social media in 2014 calling for Israel to "relocate" to the US.

Corbyn condemned her comments as "offensive and unacceptable" and the party yesterday confirmed Shah would have the whip withdrawn pending investigation.

But the controversy has prompted renewed claims of rising anti-Semitism within Labour ranks since Corbyn was elected leader and thousands of new supporters joined the party.

"Mr Corbyn's half-hearted response is disturbing," says the Financial Times. "Only after a day of confusion did the Labour leader yield to pressure from shadow cabinet members to remove her." 

The newspaper says this is only one example of what it calls Labour's "Jewish problem" and cites incidents involving party activists Gerry Downing and Vicki Kirby earlier this year.

Downing, who has since been expelled from the party, wrote about the need to "address the Jewish question", while Kirby, the vice-chair of the Woking Labour Party, was suspended after saying Jews had "big noses".

The Labour leadership needs to acknowledge "the scale of the anti-Semitism problem that is growing in the party", John Woodcock, MP and the former chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, told The Guardian yesterday.

Corbyn has repeatedly denied these allegations, reiterating that his party "is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism".

The Jewish Chronicle acknowledges the Labour leader "appears to be genuine in his rejection of anti-Semitism", but adds: "For all the fine words that he speaks, the plain fact is that he leads a party that anti-Semites clearly feel is their natural home."

However, independent British-Israeli researcher Jamie Stern-Weiner says "these are extraordinary claims" to level at the opposition.

"The enraging and – for genuine opponents of anti-Semitism – dismaying truth is this: a miserable assortment of chancers, cynics and careerists is exploiting Jewish suffering to prosecute petty vendettas, wage factional warfare and discredit legitimate criticism of Israel," he writes for Open Democracy.

"If Labour has an anti-Semitism problem, it lies not with Corbyn, but his unprincipled and reckless opponents."

Other commentators also dismissed the accusations against the Labour leader as a smear campaign, but added that it did not mean the Left could be careless about anti-Semitism. 

Corbyn the Musical shows no mercy for Labour leader

13 April

A new musical comedy based on the life of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previewed in London – and critics have called it "merciless".

Corbyn the Musical: The Motorcycle Diaries, is written by journalists Rupert Myers and Bobby Friedman, who have described the show variously as an "affectionate" parody and a "no-holds barred" political satire. 

The musical imagines the Labour leader as prime minister facing a nuclear stand-off with Russian President Vladimir Putin and is interspersed with flashbacks to Corbyn's supposed motorcycle tour of East Germany with Diane Abbott, now MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, as a young socialist in the 1970s. 

It also features Boris Johnson as leader of the opposition and Donald Trump at the helm in Washington.

The musical has already sold out and early reviews are positive.

Do we really need a show about "a man with as much charisma as the manhole covers he loves to photograph?" asks Tim Auld in the Daily Telegraph. Against all expectations, "it turns out we kind of do".

The writers "acquit themselves with aplomb", adds the critic, and lampoon political parties left and right: Tony Blair will do anything for a cheque, Abbott anything for a free taxi fare, Boris thinks he's a bit of a lothario and Corbyn strips down to do yoga and sings in praise of Islington tofu. 

While it's a far cry from Tim Minchin, there are some nice moments, says Auld, with a wheelchair-bound Blair intoning: "Can't sink the hunger to go and war monger."

It's "merciless", says Nico Hines for the Daily Beast. This rollicking stage musical skewers the Labour leader's intellect and sexual performance and the depictions of his "terror-loving friends".

Corbyn is lampooned as "a hapless Communist wannabe - rejected by the Soviet Union, and unable to get it up", he adds, saying the satire in this "extremely camp" musical is biting, even if it verges into Team America territory at times.

The writers claimed they are being "warm and affectionate", notes Hines, and it's true that the heaviest vitriol is saved for Putin and Blair. But perhaps the most worrying thing for Corbyn is that you end up leaving the theatre "feeling sorry for the beleaguered left-wing leader".

Corbyn is unlikely to see the show himself, says Spectator gossip columnist Steerpike, who writes: "Alas Mr S hears that the Labour leader is less than amused with the idea; he is yet to respond to an invitation to attend."

Corbyn the Musical runs until 30 April at Waterloo East theatre. Returns may be available on performance nights.                

Jeremy Corbyn to join Billy Bragg on stage at Glastonbury

4 April

Jeremy Corbyn, still enjoying an unlikely rock-star status among the left of the Labour party, is to appear at Glastonbury with Billy Bragg.

The Labour leader has accepted an invitation from the veteran activist singer-songwriter to appear on the Left Field stage. He will be the first serving party leader to appear at the festival. The Dalai Lama spoke at the event last year.

"The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader has galvanised a new generation of activists, and this year at Left Field we aim to give them a platform to discuss issues around social justice, the economy, gender and the possibilities for genuine change under a Corbyn government," said Bragg in a statement.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has also been invited to speak at the event. The Guardian says it is not known what they will discuss but it is thought they might debate the UK's nuclear deterrent, Trident.

This year's festival is being headlined by Coldplay, Adele and Muse and takes place from 22 to 26 June.

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