Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson hold crisis talks with union leader

Tom Watson, left, and Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA
Tom Watson, left, and Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA
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Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson held separate talks with the leader of the country’s biggest union today in an attempt to resolve the crisis at the top of the Labour Party.

Deputy leader Mr Watson was holding a series of talks with union chiefs in an attempt to end the impasse over Mr Corbyn’s position.

Both Mr Watson and Mr Corbyn discussed the situation with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who has called for the unions to broker a peace deal in the deeply divided Labour party.

READ MORE: Defiant Jeremy Corbyn in fresh defence of record as leader

The position of the unions could prove crucial in determining the future of the party, and Mr Watson told MPs talks with them would be the “last throw of the dice” in efforts to persuade embattled leader Mr Corbyn to stand down.

A source close to Mr Watson said there were “lengthy talks” between the deputy leader and Mr McCluskey with the prospect of further discussions later, but they were “still exploring the lay of the land”.

The assessment of the situation was echoed by a spokesman for Mr Corbyn following the talks between the Labour leader and the Unite chief.

The spokesman said: “Len is looking at the lay of the land and Jeremy is happy for him to continue.”

Those around Mr Corbyn continued to remain defiant despite the persistent threat of a leadership challenge. His ally and shadow chancellor John McDonnell addressed a National Union of Teachers rally outside Parliament to insist that Mr Corbyn would not resign.

In Westminster on Monday, Mr Watson told Mr Corbyn he could not carry on as party leader without the backing of the party’s MPs who last week voted overwhelmingly in favour of a vote of no confidence in him.

However, he told a packed meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night that Mr Corbyn had again made it clear he had no intention of walking away, instead issuing a renewed appeal to supporters to unite behind his leadership.

Former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle and ex-shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith are both considering a challenge to Mr Corbyn if he continues to resist calls to go.

Both are understood to have agreed to hold back while there was still a chance of a negotiated settlement which would see Mr Corbyn walk away.

The talks between Mr Watson and Mr McCluskey, which also involved Parliamentary Labour Party chairman John Cryer and Chief Whip Rosie Winterton, have so far failed to produce a breakthrough.

The deputy leader is prepared to clear his diary to allow for further meetings with union chiefs this week in an attempt to break the deadlock over Mr Corbyn’s position.

But while Mr Corbyn is determined to stay in place the only prospect of removing him would be via a leadership challenge – and the party’s MPs know his supporters in the wider membership could re-elect him, potentially leading to permanent schism within Labour.

A Labour source said there were “useful exploratory talks” between Mr Watson, Mr Cryer and Ms Winterton and the Unite chief. Further discussions with Mr McCluskey are expected today.