Whatever happened to the Angela Eagle leadership launch?

30th June, 2016 8:14 pm

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There is now unlikely to be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn until next week, following the postponement of Angela Eagle’s leadership launch today.

Eagle’s campaign was scheduled to kick off this afternoon, but was put on ice following a series of events this morning. Sources close to her campaign say that this is a delay rather than a cancellation, and that she still intends to go ahead with a challenge to Corbyn.

They claim the delay is caused by several main factors. The incredible in-fighting in the race to succeed David Cameron as Conservative Party leader will surely dominate the news agenda tomorrow, and any challenge launched today would be overshadowed. There is also a growing belief in Westminster that Corbyn, under ever-growing pressure, will resign. Stories abound that even his allies think it is time for him to step down. It would be better for everyone, they believe, if he stands down of his own accord.

Those close to him are adamant, however, that he will stay in place. They say Eagle’s delay “looks weak”, and “like they don’t know what they’re doing”. They reckon the rebels don’t think they could win a leadership contest, and that all the talk of Corbyn resigning is wishful thinking – not to mention that Corbynsceptic MPs can’t agree on a candidate.

That’s where Owen Smith comes in. The former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary resigned on Monday, endorsing Tom Watson as interim leader. Now it appears that Watson will not run, Smith seems to have leadership ambitions of his own.

Smith and Eagle met this morning to discuss leadership matters, I understand, but no particular arrangement was reached. Some posit that his possible candidacy is another reason for Eagle’s hesitancy, although that is denied on her side. Another plausible theory is that Smith is looking to trade off not running for the promise of big job in an Eagle Shadow Cabinet.

At any rate, we are not now likely to see a candidate until next week – and for everyone, that is probably for the best. With events over the past week, many MPs are running on very little rest. And actually, quite a lot privately say that they’ve been struggling for sleep since their friend Jo Cox died two weeks ago today. It is not currently a situation best suited to major decisions being made.

Tomorrow sees centenary memorials of the Battle of the Somme, and it is widely acknowledged that it is not a day for internal party politics. The weekend is being seen as a time for everyone to reflect on what they should do next.

For all the talk of a Corbyn resignation, he looks resolute for now – or at least his team are presenting that well. The trade unions are in no rush to change their position of backing, and that will keep him safe. Labour is in a stand-off.

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