Jeremy Corbyn is facing another plot to oust him as leader of the Labour Party, according to inside sources.
The Daily Express reports that a core group of around 12 anti-Corbyn Labour MPs have been planning a fightback during secret away days at a “luxury retreat” on a Sussex farm estate.
Fair Oak Farm is a “£144-a-night grade II listed farmhouse, built in the 1600s”, says The Sun. Right-wing political blog Guido Fawkes describes the venue as “very Blairite”.
What’s the plan?
A source at the meetings told the Daily Express: “We are getting together regularly to discuss how to take back control of the party.”
It is claimed attendees have included former leadership candidate Liz Kendall, former shadow cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, and senior MPs Stephen Kinnock and Gavin Shuker.
Politico’s Jack Blanchard dismisses the plot as “a jolly old caper made all the more comedic by the group’s apparent lack of any method by which to, you know, actually depose Jeremy Corbyn and win back the leadership”.
But an unnamed rebel MP suggested that the group might simply wait for a Corbyn election victory and then pull the rug from underneath him by forming a new party.
“Labour could win the next election simply because the Tories have made such a mess over Brexit,” the MP told the Express. “If that happens, we will break away and either form a separate Labour Party within Parliament or a new party.
“There are [Remainer] Conservative and Lib Dem MPs who are interested in joining us if we do form a new party because of Brexit.”
Will it work?
The unnamed MP admitted there might be a flaw in that plan – namely, “whether we would have time to create a proper identity before an election or if there would need to be an election soon after”.
“In that sense, it is complicated,” the insider conceded.
However, another attendee at the meetings, leading Remainer Chris Leslie, told the Express that the summits are simply a forum to talk policy. “We had a really positive policy discussion,” Leslie said. “I can’t recall Jeremy Corbyn featuring in the discussion at all.”
It is not the first time that the Labour leader has faced an uprising from the right of his party.
Nevertheless, despite the anti-Semitism row engulfing Labour, Corbyn is believed to have a greater grip on power following his surprise performance at the last general election and the changes to the party’s structures back in September.
Indeed, it’s “hard to see how Corbyn can be replaced as leader, given that his position with the membership is even stronger now than in 2016 when he was challenged after the EU referendum and romped home with 62% of the vote”, says The Spectator’s James Forsyth.