Mon, Jul 11, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Eagle announces bid for leadership of Labour

AFP, LONDON

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party faces a leadership battle after a challenger to Jeremy Corbyn finally stepped forward on Saturday after a Brexit vote that caused political turmoil.

Senior British lawmaker Angela Eagle is to stand against veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled head of the left-of-center party, who has faced criticism for his lukewarm campaigning in favor of staying in the EU.

Eagle announced her bid following the collapse of talks aimed at resolving a deep rift in the party over Corbyn’s future, which some commentators have suggested could prompt it to split.

“On Monday morning I will announce my candidature for leader of the Labour Party,” she said.

Corbyn, who has lost the support of at least three-quarters of his lawmakers, had “failed to fulfil his first and foremost duty, that is to lead an organized and effective Parliamentary Labour Party,” Eagle added.

Corbyn, who has strong support from grassroots Labour members, has vowed to fight on, insisting there was “no pressure on me.”

Eagle, 55, was a shadow first secretary of state before she and a host of others quit the so-called shadow Cabinet last month.

If she wins the contest, she would be the first openly gay leader of a major political party at Westminster.

Labour lawmakers staged a vote of no confidence against Corbyn on June 28, in which 17 percent backed him and 75 percent voted against him. While the EU referendum raised fresh doubts, many centrist lawmakers had long been opposed to his leadership.

Despite this, Corbyn has vowed to battle on as leader, citing a groundswell of support in the party membership.

“He will remain leader of the Labour Party and will contest any leadership challenge if one is mounted,” his spokesman said.

Corbyn told the Durham Miners’ Gala, a key date in the diary of Britain’s labor movement, that there was “no pressure on me, none whatsoever.”

“Real pressure is when you don’t have enough money to feed your kids, when you don’t have a roof over your head,” he said.

In the June 23 referendum, 52 percent of voters opted for Britain to leave the EU, with many traditional Labour heartlands voting out.

US President Barack Obama said at a NATO summit in Warsaw that he believed Britain would quit the EU.

“I think we have to assume that a referendum having been passed with a lot of attention, a lengthy campaign and relatively high participation rates is going to stick,” Obama said when asked if Britain could go back on the vote.

However, anger among “Remain” voters lingers.

The British government on Saturday formally rejected a petition signed by more than 4 million people calling for a second referendum with a minimum threshold of 60 percent and 75 percent turnout.

About 200 people gathered for a picnic to oppose Brexit held in central London’s Green Park.

The trade unions that provide significant funding to Labour have repeatedly urged respect for Corbyn’s authority as leader and the overwhelming grassroots mandate he received last year.

Len McCluskey, leader of Britain’s biggest union, Unite, sharply attacked Labour deputy leader Tom Watson for the “sabotage” of talks designed to end the standoff.

“Should there have to be a leadership election, I must warn that any attempts to keep Jeremy Corbyn, elected just 10 months ago with an enormous mandate, off the ballot paper by legal means risks a lasting division in the party,” McCluskey added.

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