UK Politics

Corbyn: Labour MPs planning split should think again

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn said membership had doubled under his leadership

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for the party's MPs to "think again" after reports that some are planning a "semi-split" of the party.

The Daily Telegraph says a group of senior Labour MPs are looking at plans to set up an "alternative Labour" if Mr Corbyn stays on as leader.

But Mr Corbyn said there was "no alternative... we are Labour", and the party should unite to fight the Tories.

Challenger Owen Smith said Labour was "on the edge of the precipice".

The Telegraph said "leading moderates" in the party were planning to elect their own leader and shadow cabinet if Mr Corbyn wins the current leadership contest, and possibly launch a legal challenge for Labour's name.

Asked about the reports, Mr Corbyn, who was holding rallies in Hull and Leeds on Saturday, said: "Sorry, this is nonsense, whoever is saying my leadership is leading to a break-up of the party?

"Since I became leader membership has doubled, activity has increased."

Mr Corbyn urged MPs to "work with the elected leadership of the party to bring about the defeat of the Tories".

He said: "If people want to split the Labour party then they're splitting something that was the creation of pioneers to bring about social justice in Britain - with a party that brought the National Health Service, that brought human rights, that brought the Equalities Act of Britain.

"Surely there are some achievements we can all be proud of - and the next achievements are to defeat the politics of austerity and cuts."

He added: "We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge - via the Daily Telegraph, very interesting - the very existence of this party."

'Fatalistic far-left'

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Media caption"I'm running to heal the Labour Party", Owen Smith said

Mr Smith, who was at a rally in Liverpool on Saturday, said he worried about a split if Mr Corbyn won.

"I do worry about there being a split - I say that very seriously. I think the Labour Party is standing on the edge of the precipice right now.

"But we've got to heal the party - we've got to come back together and that's why I'm running to heal the Labour Party, to unite us to get us ready for government."

He said there were "some on the far left of the party who have become fatalistic about the prospect of a split".

"And it would be a total disaster for working people in this country if the Labour Party - the party that's been on their side for a hundred years or more - were to split. An absolute disaster.

"I'm refusing even to contemplate that happening. I'm standing to unite the party and stop a split from occurring."

'New kind of politics'

The trigger for the challenge against Mr Corbyn - who became Labour leader last year - was the UK's vote to leave the EU.

Some Labour MPs said they felt Mr Corbyn had not shown enough enthusiasm and leadership for the Remain campaign.

He lost a motion of no confidence, and dozens of his frontbench team walked out, saying he could not win a general election.

But Mr Corbyn says he was democratically elected "for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters" and that he will "not betray them" by resigning.

The result of the leadership contest will be announced on 24 September.

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