150 LABOUR MPs are plotting to form a breakaway party codenamed ‘Continuity Labour’ when Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership battle.
Pontypridd Labour MP Stephen Kinnock is tipped to head it. The Mail on Sunday said it understands a group of leading anti-Corbyn MPs are poised to make approaches to Labour’s top 50 donors to fund the new party if the Labour leader fends off challenges from MPs Angela Eagle and Owen Smith.
The newspaper also alleged that Kinnock has held secret talks with former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown about ‘safeguarding the interests of our country’. Ashdown denies that the discussions included the formation of a new party.
On Saturday night, Labour’s largest individual donor, John Mills, who has given more than £1.6m to the party, said: ‘I am aware of these sorts of discussions, but I am very reluctant to get involved in the plots and schemes. Splitting the party would be a disaster under the first-past-the-post electoral system because it would make it harder to win.’
Meanwhile, Corbyn yesterday called on the party’s National Executive Committee to rethink its ruling that recent new members will face a £25 charge to be registered to vote in the leadership election.
He told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Programme: ‘People who spent their time and money to join the Labour Party should be welcomed and have the opportunity to take part in this leadership election.
‘It is simply not very fair to tell people who joined the party in the last six months “sorry your participation is no longer welcome because we’re having a leadership contest”.’
He added: ‘That’s the problem – if they can’t afford the £25, what do they do? It is not really reasonable. A lot of people stop me in the street saying “I’d love to vote in this election but I can’t afford £25”.’
Earlier, leadership contenders Labour MPs Angela Eagle and Owen Smith appeared on the Andrew Marr Show. Smith said: ‘Angela would make a good leader. I could also be a good leader of this party. We are people who share socialist views.
‘Maybe it’s time to go for a new generation of Labour leaders, men and women. ‘Perhaps in the past we’ve been a bit too timid about some of the ideas we’ve got in this country.
‘Personally, I’m going to argue today that austerity is right but we need to plan for prosperity – specifically that means a £200bn investment programme, and big ideas for the challenges ahead.’
Smith, MP for Pontypridd, suggested the possibility of a second referendum on EU membership, but said it would depend on what kind of deal the UK negotiated on the terms of Brexit.
He also said it would be ‘very tempting’ for Labour to campaign on a promise not to trigger the Article 50 process ‘because we are a party that believes in being at the heart of Europe’.
He added: ‘I don’t think we should accept we’re on a definite path out. I think we need to make sure people are satisfied. We trusted people, rightly, to take the decision. We can trust them again in 18 months time to check it’s absolutely what they wanted.’