Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned rebel MPs they will never be able to take the party’s name if they force a semi-split.
Responding to reports that dissenting MPs are preparing to elect their own leader and launch a legal challenge for the party’s name and assets if Owen Smith fails to win the battle for the top job, Corbyn branded the situation “bizarre”.
“We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge the very existence of this party,” Corbyn said.
“I say to them, ‘Think on, and think again’. This party was founded by brave people, pioneers who achieved a great deal, and this party has a huge membership and under the Registration of Parties Act we are the Labour Party.
“There’s no alternative, there’s no other party, we are the Labour Party, and I’m very proud to be the leader of the Labour Party.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell urged Smith to condemn “the minority of MPs supporting his campaign who are threatening to subvert the outcome of this election and cause enormous damage to the Labour Party”, but the leadership challenger responded by insisting he would not “indulge in gossip”.
“This leadership process is now entirely about Labour members and supporters. We have a one member, one vote system, so MPs will have the same amount of say as all Labour members – exactly as it should be,” Smith said.
The spat came as Smith took his battle to topple Corbyn into “enemy territory” with a campaign push in Liverpool.
Corbyn was holding rallies in Hull and Leeds as the two men continued to slug it out for the Labour crown before the winner is declared at the end of September.