With Angela Eagle clear that she will run to be the next Labour leader and Jeremy Corbyn willing to contest any such challenge, the Labour party is in a state of stalemate until Tuesday’s meeting of the National Executive Committee. At the crunch meeting, the NEC will announce whether or not Corbyn is automatically on the ballot — with a legal challenge expected whatever the result.
So with the result looming, Monday’s PLP meeting proved to be a rather muted affair as MPs wait to learn their party’s fate. Tom Watson’s spokesman described the mood as ‘not the greatest’, while John Mann walked out halfway through complaining that Emily Thornberry was ‘prattling on’.
However, the Deputy Leader did do his best to soothe party tensions. Setting the tone for the meeting, Watson gave an apologetic speech to MPs regarding the miserable position the party is in. He explained that his talks with Len McCluskey last week had come to an end as Jeremy’s continuation as leader was not up for discussion. He went on to conclude that although he had always been told he was a fixer, despite his best efforts he had been unable to fix this.
The biggest cheer came when Watson spoke about the responsibility that came with power. The deputy leader said that if 80 per cent of the PLP said they had no confidence in him, he would resign despite the support he received from members when elected. In a move that is sure to rattle Corbynistas, Watson went on to reference David Cameron’s resignation as an example of how it ‘should work’.
While MPs expressed their concerns over the prospect of an early election — with Wes Streeting warning that the party would be ‘wiped out’ — it wasn’t all negative when it came to Corbyn’s leadership. Watson conceded that Jeremy had changed the party in ways that it needed to change — pointing to the fact is is now a broad-based party.
While Watson revealed that he would ask the NEC to rule that no abuse of any kind will be tolerated in the leadership election, it remains to be seen whether MPs will be able to stick to this once the legal situation is announced on Tuesday.