Angela Eagle has fired her opening salvo at Jeremy Corbyn in a Labour leadership battle which has the potential to split the party and could end up in a bitter legal wrangle.
The former shadow cabinet minister, who was the most senior MP to resign in the revolt against Mr Corbyn, said he is “not a leader” and accused him of “hiding behind a closed door” in denial of the chaos around him.
Mr Corbyn has vowed to resist the challenge, saying it would be “irresponsible” for him to quit, and threatened legal action if his name is not on the ballot in a leadership contest.
Owen Smith, another potential challenger, demanded emergency talks with Mr Corbyn and suggested the leader and his allies are prepared to split the party.
Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Ms Eagle said Mr Corbyn had not been able to “communicate with the electorate” and “he’s now lost the confidence of the parliamentary party”.
She added: “Jeremy lost us local councillors in the elections, we have failed to win the EU referendum which is going to cause enormous stress and pressure in our country, that is not the leadership that will take us forward.
“I tried over nine months to support Jeremy and his leadership. He’s not a bad man. He’s not a leader though.”
Mr Corbyn and his allies have insisted the Labour rulebook means he will automatically be on the ballot and any challenger will have to secure the names of 51 MPs – 20 per cent of the party’s parliamentarians in Westminster and Brussels – to be nominated.
But opponents have interpreted the document to mean that Mr Corbyn will also require the support of MPs to stand – something which is unlikely to happen.
The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will decide on the rules after a contest is formally triggered, with Ms Eagle set to officially launch her bid today.
See one of the most popular articles on the News Letter online in recent years, detailing some of Mr Corvyn’s past support for the republican movement.