Tensions in the Labour Party escalated further yesterday as the Unite trade union called for the mandatory reselection of all MPs.
Delegates at the union’s conference in Brighton passed a motion demanding the controversial move, which MPs opposed to embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn fear would be used to launch a purge against them.
A lot of people I know are now saying to themselves, ‘It wasn’t the right decision’ … people are angry that they were misled by the Brexit campaignOWEN SMITH
The union also overwhelmingly voiced support for Mr Corbyn as he faces attempts to try to oust him.
The move came as the party confirmed that the winner of the leadership contest triggered by challenges to Mr Corbyn from Angela Eagle and Owen Smith would be announced on 24 September.
Nominations for the election close on 20 July, and there is a two-day window between 18 and 20 July for people to pay £25 to register to vote in the contest, with ballot papers being mailed out from 22 August.
The leadership battle has already been mired in controversy even before it has officially started, with the party’s governing National Executive Committee deciding after a tense and lengthy meeting to automatically allow Mr Corbyn to go on the ballot paper without requiring the nominations of 51 MPs and MEPs that challengers must obtain.
That decision is being challenged in the High Court by Labour donor Michael Foster, who wants it overturned.
He said: “It’s about the rule of law. There were three bits of legal advice from different QCs, all of which were contrarian and none of the people in the room were unbiased in the view of that advice.
“The advice that was taken was certainly not given the expert consideration that it would receive from a High Court judge and everyone in the room had a different political agenda.”
However, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said: “This legal challenge is very unhelpful and destabilising to the Labour Party.”
Meanwhile, Mr Smith has revealed he will push to give Britain a second referendum on European Union membership after a deal is struck on the terms of membership.
He said many Leave voters now regret their decision and are angry after being “clearly misled” by the Brexit campaign.
He insisted Labour should be committing to a second referendum, or at least a general election, once the nature of Brexit is finalised.
The former shadow work and pensions secretary said the public will want to see the deal, adding: “And then we should give them another chance. That does mean a second referendum or a general election when the terms are clear. The Labour government should be committing to that.”
He went on: “I think there are many people out there who voted in good faith for Brexit and who felt they were doing the right thing for their families and their communities and I respect them for taking that decision.
“But I think a lot of people I know are now saying to themselves, ‘It wasn’t the right decision’. A lot of people are angry that they were quite clearly misled by the Brexit campaign.”
Mr Smith, who joined the race for the party leadership on Wednesday, said either he or fellow challenger Angela Eagle should stand aside to give a unity candidate a free run at the leader.
“Ideally, we would have one candidate, and the clarity of that one candidate versus Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.
However, Ms Eagle indicated she may be willing to run in a three-way battle against both Mr Smith and Mr Corbyn, saying at a London event: “I will leave Owen to do this own thing, I’ll do my own thing.”