Labour warned against Jeremy Corbyn backlash

Left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has emerged as the surprise frontrunner in the contest for the Labour leadership to be held next week. Picture: PA
Left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has emerged as the surprise frontrunner in the contest for the Labour leadership to be held next week. Picture: PA
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LABOUR has been warned against the prospect of damaging internal splits if left-winger Jeremy Corbyn is elected party leader next week.

Leading Blairite Tristram Hunt, the party’s shadow education secretary, warned yesterday that the party must remain loyal to the Islington North MP if he succeeds Ed Miliband when the new leader is announced on Saturday.

Corbyn has emerged as the shock frontrunner in the contest and is still believed to be ahead of rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall although the gap appears to be closing.

The left-winger himself was a regular rebel against the leadership down the years, prompting questions over the party discipline he would command. Hunt is a leading Blairite who has been accused of plotting against Corbyn, but said the party must accept the outcome next week.

“I have no patience with any­one muttering now about breakaways or legal challenges,” he said.

“They are playing into the hands of the Tories. Whoever is elected, I will serve our party.

“I disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on much, but that is nothing compared to the revulsion for what this Tory ­government is doing to our communities.”

If Corbyn falls short of the 50 per cent support needed for victory outright in the first round of voting, it is believed he could struggle to win because he will lose out badly when the “second preferences” are dispersed of the fourth-placed candidate who would then fall out of the contest.

Hunt has already made it clear he will not serve in a shadow cabinet if Corbyn is leader.

Another leading Blairite, Chukka Umunna, last week urged that Labour should “get behind” whoever wins.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has accused Hunt and Umunna of disloyalty ahead of Corbyn’s expected victory, branding them the “group of two.”

But the shadow education secretary said: “This hurts. I was born into the Labour Party, my father was Labour group leader at local authority level, and I will serve it till my dying days.”

Hunt also urged the party to get over its “complex” about Tony Blair.

“If we are honest with ourselves, the last two leadership transitions have been about positioning the party against Tony Blair – both Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband sought, to a greater or lesser extent, to position themselves against Blair.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign playbook contains a more extreme narrative about his opposition to Blair’s legacy.

“Where does this stop? The public will be confused as to why a politician elected to the leadership more than 20 years ago continues to occupy the minds and dominate the thinking of today’s leadership ranks within the Labour party. We have a Blair complex, we need to get over him and it.”