Labour MPs in despair at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership must waste no more time before setting up a breakaway party, a leading donor has said.
With the party descending into further chaos and recrimination, Assem Allam, who has given Labour more than £500,000, said that MPs had effectively missed a year by staying after Mr Corbyn was elected leader.
The owner of Hull City football club said that he had held meetings with several Labour members after Mr Corbyn’s victory last September. He said they had wanted to wait a year before considering forming a new party but he insisted that immediate action was needed.
He added that he would not help to fund Owen Smith’s unity campaign for the leadership. Instead Mr Allam said that he would donate generously to anyone who wanted to defect, set up a new grouping in the Commons or start a new party. He said: “Now is the time. We missed a year and look at the damage that has happened in that time. At prime minister’s questions they are taking the mickey out of [Mr Corbyn].”
Mr Allam said that after the leadership election he met four of the party’s most senior figures and asked them if they would leave. “They said, ‘We agree with you, yes he will never win an election, yes he will never be a strong opposition leader — but we want to leave it for a year.’ Their view was, ‘We don’t want to rock the boat’. I said, ‘You are not doing your party or democracy a favour.’ I have been proved right, unfortunately.”
The warning comes as one of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies confirmed for the first time that the hard-left leader would resign if he lost a general election. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said that he would resign along with Mr Corbyn if they lost. He told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: “Every Labour leader who loses an election usually goes.”
The remarks could encourage moderate MPs to stay until after the next election. Senior figures said, however, that many MPs risked losing their seats in an election. Lilian Greenwood, who resigned from Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, said: “Labour can’t afford to wait until 2020 for decent leadership.”
Michael Dugher, the former shadow cabinet minister, said that the Tories could secure a majority of 100 seats in a snap election.
Some Labour MPs have spent the past few days urging their local members to support Mr Smith. One MP said: “Members have to understand that none of the options in the event of Corbyn winning this summer’s leadership challenge are good options. And they have to realise there is no chance of us all filing in behind Corbyn if he wins.”
Labour’s leader in the Lords said that Mr Corbyn had failed to take on the Tories. Angela Smith said that Mr Smith had a better chance of winning over the public. She told The Guardian: “It is no good having the right values and the right policies if you can’t articulate and persuade other people.”