Three-way fight boosts Corbyn's re-election bid

Britain's opposition Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (centre), in the House of Commons, in central London, Britain, on July 13.
Britain's opposition Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (centre), in the House of Commons, in central London, Britain, on July 13.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • A second British opposition Labour lawmaker entered the contest to topple leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday, boosting the veteran left-winger's chances of being re-elected by splitting the support of those who oppose him.

Labour is engulfed in a bitter internal power struggle between Mr Corbyn's supporters in the grassroots membership and the party's lawmakers, who overwhelmingly rejected his leadership after last month's Brexit. "I will stand in this election and I will do the decent thing and fight Jeremy Corbyn on the issues," Labour lawmaker Owen Smith told the BBC.

The leadership contest was triggered on Monday when lawmaker Angela Eagle challenged Mr Corbyn. The race will formally get under way today, with the announcement of the timetable for an election. Media reports suggest candidates will be put to a ballot of members next month before a new leader is announced on Sept 24.

Mr Corbyn won a crucial victory against rebels seeking to unseat him on Tuesday, after the party's executive committee ruled that he will automatically be included in a leadership ballot as the incumbent leader.

Anyone standing for leadership needs 51 nominations from Labour MPs or members of the European Parliament - and it was not clear that Mr Corbyn could secure them.

Some fear having two candidates run against Mr Corbyn reduces the chances of ousting him, as the support of party members who want to see change would be split. If Mr Corbyn, who retains strong support among the rank-and-file members, is re-elected, the party may split.

Passions are running high, and a brick was thrown through the window of Ms Eagle's constituency office on Tuesday. The incident follows complaints by Labour MPs, particularly women, of threats and abuse from Mr Corbyn's supporters if they spoke out against him.

Outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday drew a contrast between his Conservative Party's orderly transition and Labour's warring: "We got on with it. We've had resignation, nomination, competition and coronation - they haven't even decided what the rules are yet."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Three-way fight boosts Corbyn's re-election bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe