Labour MPs are plotting to mount a coup against Jeremy Corbyn before Christmas, if he wins the leadership in September.
The left-wing MP for Islington North has staged a stunning raid on support among constituency labour party (CLP) organisations in the past week, prompting panic among supporters of the three mainstream candidates, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. Two internal polls also suggested a surge in support for Mr Corbyn, with one even suggesting he could win on 12 September.
Although this result is still seen as a long shot, MPs said in the event of a Corbyn victory they would immediately start gathering the 47 names needed to trigger a coup. One said: “We cannot just allow our party, a credible party of government, to be hijacked in this summer of madness. There would be no problem in getting names. We could do this before Christmas.”
Another Labour MP said a Corbyn victory would cause deep unhappiness among the current shadow cabinet, and suggested that few would want to serve under him.
Yet talk of a potential coup will cause uproar among grassroots Labour members because, in this scenario, Mr Corbyn would have won in the most democratic leadership contest the party has ever held. A second leadership contest could also lead to the same result.
There is also speculation that Mr Corbyn views himself as a stop-gap leader, who would stay in post for two or three years, until a slightly softer left figure rises to prominence. A senior party source suggested that 35-year-old Lisa Nandy, deputy party chairman John Trickett, and former National Union of Mineworkers president Ian Lavery could be ready for a leadership tilt by 2018.