Owen Smith will challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership
Owen Smith will challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party, following Angela Eagle’s decision to drop out of the race.
Labour MPs had until tomorrow to submit nominations for the PLP ‘unity’ candidate, but Eagle and Smith are believed to have made a deal that whoever had fewer nominations by five o’ clock this evening would drop out.
Despite Smith’s claims to command significantly more support than his opponent, he was only narrowly ahead based on today’s count.
Eagle delivered a statement in Westminster, thanking her supporters and saying she would support Smith ‘with all my enthusiasm and might’.
“We have a Labour party at the moment that is not working. We’ve got a leader that doesn’t have the confidence of his Members of Parliament and isn’t reaching out to the country. We need to have a strong and united Labour party so that we can be a good opposition, take the fight to the Conservative Government and heal our country.”
Eagle triggered the leadership contest when she launched her candidacy last Monday, following weeks of discussion of a possible contender, during which hers was the name mentioned most frequently.
Towards the end of last week, Smith made it clear that he would also be a candidate and there was pressure from within the PLP for one or other to step down.
Tributes have already been paid to Eagle for her willingness to put her head above the parapet at a point when it seems that the shadow cabinet coup was about to fizzle out.
YouGov polling published today suggested that Corbyn would easily beat either Smith or Eagle.
It also suggested that 69 per cent of Labour MPs know ‘not much’ or ‘nothing at all’ about Smith, which some commentators have suggested will be an advantage given the animosity that has built up towards Eagle.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.