The Times and NightJack: an anatomy of a failure

The story of how, in a string of managerial and legal lapses, the <em>Times</em> hacked NightJack and effectively misled the High Court

(This post sets out what Lord Justice Leveson has since described as a "mastery analysis" at paragraph 1.33 of his Report.)


The award-winning “NightJack” blogger was outed in 2009 by the Times of London. At the time the newspaper maintained that its controversial publication of a blogger’s real identity was based on brilliant detective work by a young staff journalist. However, it is now clear that the blogger’s identity was established by unethical and seemingly unlawful hacking of the blogger’s private email account.

If the hack was not bad enough, the Leveson Inquiry has also heard how the newspaper in effect misled the High Court about it when the blogger sought an urgent injunction against his forced identification. The blogger lost that critical privacy case and it is possible that the case could have been decided differently if the Times had disclosed the hack to the court.

The following is a narrative of what happened. It reveals a depressing sequence of failures at the “newspaper of record”. Most of the sources for this post are set out on the resource page at my Jack of Kent blog.


Background: the police blogger who won the Orwell Prize

NightJack was an outstanding blog and its author was one of the best the blogging medium had ever produced. The blog was an unflinchingly personal account of front-line police work set in the fictional -- and generic -- urban environments of “Smallville” and “Bigtown”. The world it described was very different from the glamorous police shows on television. Readers who otherwise would not know what police really did and what they had to put up with could now gain a proper understanding of the modern police officer’s lot.  The blog’s narrator -- “Jack Night” -- could have been any police officer working under pressure in any town or city. 

NightJack was a perfect example of the value of blogging, providing a means -- otherwise unavailable -- by which an individual could inform and explain in the public interest.

After he was outed, the author explained how the blog was started and how NightJack gained a good following:

It all began around December 2007 when I began to read blogs for the first time. I read blogs by police officers from all over the UK. They were writing about the frustrations and the pleasures of what we all refer to as “The Job”. As I read, I began to leave comments until some of those comments were as long as the original posts. Reading and responding made me start to consider my personal feelings about “The Job”. So it was that in February 2008, I made a decision to start blogging for myself as NightJack. That decision has had consequences far beyond anything that I then imagined possible.

My head-on accounts of investigating serious crime and posts on how I believed policing should work within society seemed to strike a chord and my readership slowly grew to around 1,500 a day.

And then, a year after the blog started, something happened that made NightJack one of the best-known blogs in Britain.


February to April 2009: NightJack and the Orwell Prize

In February 2009, the blogger learned that his work had gained formal recognition:

[U]nexpectedly, in February 2009 I was longlisted for the Orwell Prize.

In March 2009 NightJack made it on to the shortlist.

I realised that what had begun as a set of personal ruminations was achieving a life of its own. I cannot deny that I was happy with the recognition, but at the same time I had the feeling that the Orwell Prize was a big, serious, very public event. Win, lose or draw, my blog was about to move out of the relatively small world of the police blogosphere and get a dose of national attention.

On 22 April 2009 NightJack became the first winner in the new blog category of the Orwell Prize, regarded as the leading prize for political writing in the United Kingdom. The judges were clearly impressed; they said of NightJack:

Getting to grips with what makes an effective blog was intriguing -- at their best, they offer a new place for politics and political conversation to happen.

The insight into the everyday life of the police that Jack Night’s wonderful blog offered was -- everybody felt -- something which only a blog could deliver, and he delivered it brilliantly.

It took you to the heart of what a policeman has to do -- by the first blogpost you were hooked, and could not wait to click on to the next one.

However, the winning blogger was keen to maintain his carefully protected anonymity. He arranged for the prize to be collected by a friend and for the £3,000 to be donated to a police charity. He later wrote of the attendant media interest:

The morning after I won the award, there was a leader in the Guardian and a full page in the Sun. The readership went up to 60,000 a day (more people have read NightJack since I stopped writing it than ever read it whilst it was live). My email inbox had offers from newspapers, literary agents, publishers and people who wanted to talk about film rights and TV adaptations.

There was a lot of attention heading towards my blog and I was nervous that somehow, despite my efforts to remain unknown, my identity would come out. As an anonymous blogger, I was just another policing Everyman but if it came out that I worked in Lancashire, I knew that some of my writing on government policy, partner agencies, the underclass and criminal justice would be embarrassing for the Constabulary. Also, as an anonymous police blogger I was shielded from any consequences of my actions, but without the protection of that anonymity there were clearly areas where I would have to answer for breaches in the expected standards of behaviour for police officers.

During the next month I began to relax a little. It felt like everything was going to work out and my identity would stay secret. I contacted one of the literary agents and said that the blog was not for sale at any price and that I wouldn’t be trading on the Orwell Prize.

There was press and TV attention but nobody seemed to want to publicise who was behind my blog.


17 to 27 May 2009 – the hacking of an email account

Unfortunately, this happy situation would last for only a month. A staff journalist at the Times called Patrick Foster had become interested in NightJack. Foster covered the media rather than crime, but he was intrigued by this anonymous police blog that had won the Orwell Prize.

As Foster later said:

In the first instance, this was down to the natural journalistic instinct of trying to unmask someone who tries to keep their identity secret.

But Foster was not to use conventional journalistic methods to unmask the blogger. On or about Sunday 17 May 2009, Foster decided to hack into the NightJack author’s Hotmail account. He did this, it would seem, by “forgetting” the password and guessing the answer to the subsequent security question.  The Times did not sanction or commission the hack.

From the details available in the email account, Foster was apparently able to identify the author of the blog, as well as obtain the blogger’s private mobile phone number and see correspondence between the blogger and a literary agent.

This hacking exercise was undertaken on Foster’s own initiative and was similar to an exercise he had undertaken as a student journalist at Oxford. (The police originally treated this earlier hack as a potential breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and referred it to the university authorities.)

Thus, Foster was not a stranger to email hacking or to the applicable legislation, which does not have any public-interest defence. 

On Tuesday 19 May 2009, Foster contacted his line manager, Martin Barrow, the Times’s home news editor, about his discovery. First, Foster emailed Barrow:

“Martin, sorry to bother you. Do you have five minutes to have a quick chat about a story -- away from the desk, down here in the glass box, perhaps?”

It appears Barrow then immediately referred Foster to Alastair Brett, the long-serving Times legal manager.


20 May 2009 – Foster and Brett have a meeting

Foster emailed Brett the next day:

“Hi Alastair, sorry to bother you. Do you have five minutes today? I need to run something past you.”

They then had what proved to be a significant meeting. Two years later, Brett recalled the meeting for the Leveson Inquiry:

I remember Patrick Foster coming to see me on or about 20 May 2009 about a story he was working on. He came into my office with Martin Barrow, the home news editor, who was his immediate line manager. Mr Barrow indicated that Mr Foster had a problem about a story he was working on. From my best recollection, Mr Barrow left shortly after that and Mr Foster and I were left alone. Mr Foster then asked if we could talk “off the record”, ie, confidentially, as he wanted to pick my brains on something and needed legal advice. I agreed.

He then told me that he had found out that the award-winning police blogger, known as NightJack, was in fact Richard Horton, a detective constable in the Lancashire Police, and that he had been using confidential police information on his biog. As his activities were prima facie a breach of police regulations, Mr Foster felt there was a strong public interest in exposing the police officer and publishing his identity.

When I asked how he had identified DC Horton, Mr Foster told me that he had managed to gain access to NighJack’s email account and as a result, he had learnt that the account was registered to an officer in the Lancashire Police, a DC Richard Horton. This immediately raised serious alarm bells with me and I told him that what he had done was totally unacceptable.

At that first meeting, Mr Foster wanted to know if he had broken the law and if there was a public -interest defence on which he could rely.

I had already done some work with Antony White, QC on the discrepancies between Section 32 and Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the government’s intention of bringing in prison sentences for breaches of S55 of the DPA. I knew there was a public-interest defence under Section 55 of the DPA. I told Mr Foster that he might have a public-interest defence under the section but I was unsure what other statutory provisions he might have breached by accessing someone’s computer as I did not think it was a Ripa (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) situation.

I said I would have to ring counsel to check there was a public-interest defence and what other statutory offences Mr Foster might have committed.

I cannot now remember if I phoned One Brick Court, libel chambers, while Mr Foster was in my office or shortly thereafter but I do know I spoke to junior counsel around this time and he confirmed that S55 of the DPA had a public-interest defence and it might be available. He did not mention anything about Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 during that conversation or point me in that direction.

I do remember being furious with Mr Foster.

I told him he had put TNL and me into an incredibly difficult position. I said I would have to give careful consideration to whether or not I reported the matter to David Chappell, the managing editor of the newspaper and the person on the newspaper who was responsible for issuing formal warnings to journalists and could ultimately hire or fire them.

As Mr Barrow, the home news editor, had brought Mr Foster up to see me, I assumed that he was also fully aware of Mr Foster having accessed NightJack’s email account and that he, as Mr Foster’s immediate line manager, would take whatever disciplinary action he thought appropriate about a journalist in his newsroom.

I also remember making it clear that the story was unpublishable from a legal perspective, if it was based on unlawfully obtained information. It was therefore “dead in the water” unless the same information -- NightJack’s identity -- could be obtained through information in the public domain.

I told him he had been incredibly stupid. He apologised, promised not to do it again but did stress how he believed the story was in the public interest and how important it was to stop DC Horton using police information on his blog.

He said he thought he could identify NightJack using publicly available sources of information. I told him that even if he could identify NightJack through totally legitimate means, he would still have to put the allegation to DC Horton before publication. This process is called “fronting up”, and is an essential element of the Reynolds qualified privilege defence in libel actions.

However, at the time, Foster took a far more encouraging view of events. Foster emailed Barrow straight after the meeting:

Alastair [Brett] on side. 

Foster then told Barrow:

Am trying to take it out of paper this Saturday for three reasons: (1) am away this Friday, (2) want a little more time to put ducks in a row and pix [photographs], (3) want little more space between the dirty deed and publishing.

The “dirty deed” was presumably the unauthorised hacking of the victim’s email account, to which he had just admitted to the Times legal manager.

27 May 2009 – the blogger takes legal action

On the morning of Wednesday 27 May 2009, a week after the meeting between Foster and Brett, Detective Constable Richard Horton of the Lancashire Constabulary was told by colleagues that the Times picture desk had been in contact asking for photographs. Then at around lunchtime, Horton received a call on his private mobile telephone number.

The caller was Foster.

Horton later wrote:

Then one morning I heard a rumour that the Times had sent a photographer to my home. Later in the afternoon came the inevitable phone calls from the Times, first to me and then to Lancashire Constabulary, asking for confirmation that I was the author of the NightJack blog.

That was easily the worst afternoon of my life.

As Horton’s lawyer later told the High Court:

[Horton] was approached by a journalist, Mr Pat Foster, claiming to be from the Times newspaper. Mr Foster told [Horton] that he had identified him as the author of the blog and was proposing to publish his identity as author of the blog together with a photograph of him in the next day’s edition of newspaper.

[Horton] has no idea how Mr Foster identified him as the author of the blog.

Foster later described the same call in a witness statement for the High Court:

On May 27 I contacted Richard Horton by phone and put it to him that he was the author of the blog.

He seemed agitated and would not confirm or deny the allegation.

In the course of the conversation he admitted that he had had contact with journalists about the blog. He said he was writing a book, but said it could be coincidence that the author of the blog had also written on the blog that they were writing a book.

At the end of the conversation I was certain that he was the author of the blog.

Horton was indeed the author of the NightJack blog, as Foster knew before he made the call. However, Horton was not going to simply accept his imminent “outing”.  He contacted the Orwell Prize administrators about Foster’s call and they referred him to Dan Tench, an experienced media litigator at a City law firm.

Tench promptly faxed the Times to warn in general terms that the publication of Horton as the blogger would be a breach of confidence and a wrongful disclosure of personal information.

Horton’s legal challenge took Brett by surprise and it placed the Times in a difficult position. Brett had not thought the outing of Horton would lead to litigation. However, Tench was now demanding an undertaking that the Times would not publish the identity of Horton without giving 12 hours’ notice. The Times agreed. This meant Tench and Horton would now have to be told well before any publication, allowing them an opportunity to obtain an injunction to prevent publication.

Accordingly, the newspaper did not out the blogger the next day as it had intended.

So what public domain information did the Times have on 28 May, the intended publication date, which connected Horton with NightJack?

It is difficult to be certain, as there is little direct evidence of any investigation taking place before 27 May 2009 though there had clearly been analysis of some of the posts.   And, in his call to Horton, Foster seemed to mention the literary agent only as supporting evidence.  This detail was presumably taken from the email account, as was the number he dialled.

The newspaper  appears to have had little more than the information Foster had been able to elicit from the Hotmail account or deduce from comparing some news reports with statements on the blog.


28 May 2009 – Horton applies for an injunction

The morning after Foster’s call to Horton, Brett emailed Tench, giving the required “notice that the Times would be publishing a piece in tomorrow’s paper about your client being the Night Jack”.

Tench replied at lunchtime to confirm that Horton would be seeking a temporary injunction at the High Court.

An injunction hearing was hurriedly arranged for 4pm the same day before Mr Justice Teare. This was to be the first of two High Court hearings for this case.

At the initial hearing, Horton’s legal team set out for the High Court the many detailed steps taken by Horton to protect his anonymity. Because of these steps, Horton’s lawyers contended that any identification by Foster could only have been in breach of confidentiality or an invasion of privacy.

At the hearing of the application for the injunction, the barrister for the Times (who had not been made aware of the hack) was instructed to say that the identity had been worked out “largely” by detective work:

My instructions, having discussed [the confidentiality] argument in particular with my instructing solicitors and the journalist, who is here, are that the proposed coverage that will be given, which will involve the disclosure of this individual’s identity, is derive …from a self-starting journalistic endeavour upon the granting of the Orwell Prize.

It is a largely deductive exercise, in the sense that the blogs have been examined and contemporary newspaper reports have been examined.

This first hearing was a relative success for Horton and his lawyers. It was adjourned to allow the Times to put in a skeleton argument and witness evidence at a resumed hearing the following week. In the meantime, the Times undertook not to publish its story.


29 to 31 May 2009 – the Times finds a “golden bullet”

After the first hearing, there was frantic activity at the Times to establish that Horton’s identity could somehow be established by entirely public means.  Unless this was possible, it was likely that the Times would lose at the resumed hearing.

It was at this point, it seems, that Brett realised the Times did not actually have a copy of NightJack’s entire blog. Horton had taken the blog down after the call from Foster, and it appeared neither Foster nor Brett had thought ahead to retain a copy before that call was made. So, on Friday 29 May 2009, the day after the initial hearing, Brett asked Tench for a full copy of the NightJack blog:

It is important we see a full copy of the blog in order to make a detailed analysis before the hearing next week.

Why was Brett requesting the blog at this stage? The implication is that the Times had yet to make a detailed analysis of the blog’s content.  The Times was looking for any information which would allow it to show that Horton could be identified by information in the public domain.

On Saturday 30 May 2009 there was a breakthrough. An excited Foster emailed Brett:

Alastair, I cracked it. I can do the whole lot from purely publicly accessible information.

Brett is delighted, and he replied the same day:

Brilliant -- that may be the golden bullet. Can you set it out on paper?

This “golden bullet” -- discovered some ten days after Foster had first raised the case with Brett, and two days after the first High Court hearing and the original intended publication date -- consisted of comments left by Horton on his US-based brother’s Facebook page. To obtain this crucial information, Foster had had to sign into Facebook as a member of the Houston Texas network, but he now had the final detail for the “fronting-up” exercise.

This fortuitous discovery was made on 30 May 2009. But, of course, though the Times had originally intended to run the story on 28 May, two days before it obtained its “golden bullet”.


Monday 1 June 2009 – Dan Tench writes an important letter

By that same weekend, Tench was highly suspicious about the real source of the original identification by Foster. So, on Monday 1 June 2009, he wrote a detailed and substantial letter to Brett expressing concern that there had been unlawful interference with Horton’s email account.

Tench set out a number of circumstances that gave rise to the strong likelihood that Foster had identified Horton by means of an email hack. He referred to the comment of the Times’s barrister at the first hearing the previous week, that the blogger had been identified only “largely” by a process of deduction. 

The password incident of 17 May 2009 was now mentioned, and cuttings were included of Foster’s previous hacking activity as a student at Oxford University. (Those cuttings happened to mention the offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, the existence of which was news to Brett.)

Tench asked Brett directly to what extent Horton had been identified through a process of deduction. He also asked how Foster could have gained details of Horton’s home address, private phone number and literary agent.

Tench even requested express confirmation from Brett that Foster did not at any time make any unauthorised access to any email owned by Horton. As he stated bluntly to Brett:

It would be an extremely serious matter if Mr Foster had made an unauthorised access into any email account.


Tuesday 2 June 2009 – the misleading letter and witness statement

But Brett now had his “golden bullet”. When he replied to Tench on Tuesday 2 June 2009, Brett started by complaining about Tench not providing full disclosure of the requested NightJack blog:

I think it would be fair to describe your client’s refusal to produce the full copy of the blog in this case as incompatible with that duty to reveal all material that is reasonably necessary and likely to assist the Times’s case and defence at the forthcoming hearing.

Brett then proceeded to deal with Tench’s contentions about the likelihood of email-hacking:

I am still working on Patrick Foster’s witness statement but apart from inserting all page numbers which is being done while I write this letter his witness statement is now almost ready to be served.

I therefore attach a copy of it as it sets out through a process of elimination and intelligent deduction your client’s identity can be worked out [sic].

It is important that you read his witness statement as there cannot be any reason for your continuing to withhold the full blog from us when you have seen that process of deduction set out in the witness statement.

As regards the suggestion that Mr Foster might have accessed your client’s email address because he has a “history of making unauthorised access into email accounts”, I regard this as a baseless allegation with the sole purpose of prejudicing Times Newspapers’s defence of this action . . .

[. . .]

As regards his deductive abilities, please see [Foster’s] witness statement.

Brett’s explanation of how identification was obtained and his apparent assurance that the allegation of hacking was “baseless” were at best misleading.  Brett himself has put it since that he was being “oblique to an extent which [was] embarrassing”.

Yet it was the witness statement that presented as fact that the identification of Horton had been made entirely through accessing material in the public domain.
The witness statement, in Foster’s name, was prepared by Brett. (There is nothing unusual in this. Witness statements are often drafted by lawyers, as long as the witness is then fully content with the statement when he or she signs it. In this case, the witness statement would not have been given to Foster to sign until Brett was satisfied with it.)
So the witness statement provided a compelling account of excellent detection, describing how Foster, working from scratch, had gone painstakingly through a range of information in the public domain to work out Horton’s identity as the author of NightJack.  As Lord Justice Leveson later described, it looked a beautiful forensic exercise.  But it was false.
The witness statement also included various flourishes that make one think that a clever and elaborate investigation had been carried out step by step. Examples of such details included:
I resolved to try to uncover the identity of its author . . .
I began to systematically run the details of the articles through Factiva, a database of newspaper articles . . .
Because of the startling similarities between the blog post and the case detailed in the newspaper report, I began to work under the assumption that if the author was, as claimed, a detective . . .
I tried to link personal details about the author that are revealed on the blog with real-life events . . .
I began to examine the posts on the blog in chronological order to try and find personal information about the author . . .
Having undertaken this process, it was clear that the author of the blog was DC Richard Horton . . .
At the Leveson Inquiry, Brett said that he was only being careful not to allow Foster to be incriminated. This is an admirable sentiment. However, that could have been achieved by other means. For example, the witness statement could have shown how it was possible for the identity of the blogger to be established by materials in the public domain without positively asserting that that was how it had actually been done.

Towards the end of the witness statement, almost as if it was an afterthought, Foster then set out the comments on Horton’s brother’s Facebook page as mere “further confirmation” of the identification, rather than the “golden bullet” of his email exchange with Brett. Foster then signed his witness statement and everything was set for the resumed High Court hearing.


4 June 2009 – How the High Court was misled

The injunction hearing resumed on Thursday 4 June 2009. This time, the judge was Mr Justice Eady, a specialist in media.
By this second hearing, however, Horton’s application was not as strong as it had been at the initial hearing. Because Brett said that the allegation of hacking was essentially “baseless” and because of the story set out in Foster’s witness statement, Horton’s lawyers reluctantly had to drop their contention that the blogger’s identity could only have been established by breach of confidentiality or through an invasion of privacy.
Brett was careful not to tell the barristers acting for the Times about the email hack. One (perhaps unintended) consequence of this was that the barristers could not help but effectively mislead the court through no fault of their own. The hearing thereby proceeded on the incorrect basis that Horton had been identified entirely by the detective work set out in the witness statement.
So, as Eady later described in the judgment:
On 4 June 2009 I heard an application in private whereby the claimant, who is the author of a blog known as “Night Jack”, sought an interim injunction to restrain Times Newspapers Ltd from publishing any information that would or might lead to his identification as the person responsible for that blog. An undertaking had been given on 28 May 2009 that such information would not be published pending the outcome. I indicated at the conclusion that I would refuse the injunction but, in the meantime, I granted temporary cover to restrain publication until the handing down of the judgment, when the matter could be considered afresh if need be. 
The following passage from the judgment was critical:
It was asserted in the claimant’s skeleton [argument] for the hearing of 28 May that his identity had been disclosed to the Times in breach of confidence. By the time the matter came before me, on the other hand, Mr Tomlinson was prepared to proceed on the basis that the evidence relied upon from Mr Patrick Foster, the relevant journalist, was correct; that is to say, that he had been able to arrive at the identification by a process of deduction and detective work, mainly using information available on the internet.
Given this concession, Eady summed up the predicament of Horton’s legal claim:
[Horton’s barrister] needs to demonstrate that there would be a legally enforceable right to maintain anonymity, in the absence of a genuine breach of confidence, by suppressing the fruits of detective work such as that carried out by Mr Foster.
Eady is evidently much taken by the “fruits” of Foster’s apparent detective work. Hugh Tomlinson, Horton’s QC, tried to contend that there was still a public interest in protecting sources from exposure by the national press, even if their identity could be worked out by other means. But to no avail.
At the end of the hearing Eady said he would not grant the injunction. Horton had lost. But, perhaps significantly for what follows next, the judge reserved judgment and was careful to keep cover in place until his decision could be handed down, “as the matter could [then] be considered afresh if need be”. In other words, if any matter did emerge before judgment was made public, Eady could take those matters into consideration before the judgment was handed down.

5-17 June 2009 – What the editor of the Times knew, and then what he does and does not do

So, what did James Harding, the editor of the Times, know about any of this, and when? According to his later witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry, Harding came to know of the potential identification of the NightJack blogger on 27 May 2009, the day before the originally intended publication date. He also knew of the possible injunction application the same day, though he was not told of the hack.
Harding was copied in to an email from Brett to the managing editor, David Chappell, on 4 June, the date of the second hearing. This was an important message stating that Foster had gained unauthorised access. Harding did not read the email at the time, even though it contained information about a serious and apparently criminal incident of hacking by one of his staff reporters. The email said:

David, you asked me to do you a memo on NightJack and events to date.

I first saw Patrick Foster on or about 19 May when he told me he’d been able to identify real live cases that an anonymous police blogger had been writing about.

Patrick felt this was seriously off side and probably a breach of the officer’s duty of confidence to the force. He therefore wanted to identify the guy and publish his name in the public interest. He then said he had gained access to the blogger’s email account and got his name.

This raised immediate alarm bells with me but I was unaware of the most recent law governing email accounts.

After this conversation, I told Patrick: “Never ever think of doing what you have done again.” I said he might just have a public interest defence if anyone ever found out how stupid he’d been. He apologised and promised not to do it again. Further, he said he would set about establishing Horton’s identity without reference to the email account. I did though say he would have to put it to Richard Horton that he was NightJack.

Last Thursday afternoon, our barrister told the court that through a process of deduction and elimination, Patrick could identify Horton as NightJack, but it looked as though we would lose the application because Horton’s silk was convincing the judge that he was entitled to have the information protected by the law of privacy and confidence.

On Monday of this week, Olswang wrote to us saying: (a) that Patrick had a history of accessing email accounts and pointing us to an incident at Oxford where he’d been temporarily rusticated for accessing someone else’s email account without authority, and (b) that their client’s email had been hacked into.

Looking at the old Oxford cuttings about Patrick’s brush with the proctors, I became aware of the possibility that Patrick’s access to Horton’s email account could constitute a breach of Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act.

Patrick has always believed that his investigation of NightJack was in the public interest. When he came to me to say that he had found out that NightJack was Richard Horton and he had also obtained access to his email account, I made it very clear that this was disastrous, as he should not have done it.

Given my own failure to spot what could be a breach of Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act, I am not in a position to advise sensibly in this case, but I would suggest that Patrick is given a formal warning that if he ever accesses anyone’s computer ever again without authority, whether it’s in the public interest or not, he will be sacked. You might add that the only reason he has not been sacked now is because he was told he might have a public interest defence if he was pursued under the [Data Protection Act].

This email clearly stated that there had been a hack, and that the hack was how Foster had got Horton’s name. The email also revealed that Brett had realised from the cuttings sent by Horton’s lawyers that such a hack could constitute a possible breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
Harding has since explained that the point at which he became aware of the hack was the day after this email, when it was raised in a meeting with Chappell. In his written evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Harding stated:
At that time, it was not clear to Mr Chappell or to me exactly what Mr Foster had done, but the suggestion that he had accessed someone’s email account was a matter of great concern to both of us.
One would think Brett’s email of 4 June 2009 was quite clear about what Foster had done and its legal importance, in particular two points regarding exactly what Foster had done and its legal significance could not have been made clearer by Brett:
 [Foster] had said he had gained access to the blogger’s email account and got his name . . .
. . . failure to spot what could be a breach of section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act . . .
Some might ask why, when he became clear about the hacking, Harding did not try, as would seem to have happened, to find out more about the implications of it or what the High Court had or not had been told about it. However, Harding has said that he did not know at this point that the High Court had not been told about the hacking and that he would have left decisions about what to put to the court to Brett.
On 12 June 2009, Mr Justice Eady’s judgment was made available in draft. Eady held that there could be no injunction because blogging is a public activity and Horton had no legitimate expectation of privacy in respect of information that was in the public domain. There was therefore no need to balance the public interest of disclosure against that of privacy.
However, Eady also stated that even if Horton had a legitimate expectation of privacy, the public interest in disclosure of his identity would outweigh any right to privacy; but this second point was made without the court having had the benefit of hearing any argument or seeing any evidence on the email hack. It is therefore entirely possible that, had the hack been put before the court, the decision could have gone the other way.
For some reason, Harding did not read the draft judgment. But two days after the draft was provided, there was a further important email, this time from Chappell to the then deputy editor, about the impending editorial decision whether to now publish Horton’s identity:
There are three things to consider:
(1) What is the editorial value of this story?
(2) Given there is a significant legal precedent in this, we’ll want to run something. Given the trouble it’s caused, are we now cutting off our own nose to spite our faces if we decide the story isn’t that interesting? Are we now stuck in a position of having to run something because of the legal processes?
(3) What do we do about Patrick?
Chappell then asked two questions showing that at least he, as the managing editor (if not Harding), was aware of the significance of Foster’s hack:
If we publish a piece by Patrick saying how he pieced together the identity (for which Eady praises him!) what happens if subsequently it is shown that he had accessed the files?
What are the ramifications for him, you and the editor -- does our decision to publish, knowing that there had been a misdemeanour, indicate complicity and therefore real embarrassment or does Eady’s judgment get us off the hook?
There followed a meeting on 15 June 2009 between Chappell, Harding and the then deputy editor. In the words of Harding’s later witness statement:
Discussion at that meeting focussed on whether publishing a story identifying Night Jack was in the public interest. We debated the arguments for and against.
We also discussed whether in effect we had little option but to publish because the Times had pursued High Court action and the injunction had been lifted. In these circumstances, I decided to publish.

Harding amplified this in oral evidence to the Leveson Inquiry:

We had a meeting, as I remember, to discuss this issue. The first and biggest one was: what was the public interest argument?

And of course, what was very frustrating was that’s exactly the conversation we should have had in advance of going to the High Court.

We had it after the fact and after the fact that Mr Eady’s judgment was being handed down, but it was an important argument that we had to address, because on the one hand, some people said, “Why are we trying to identify someone who is essentially a citizen journalist who is an anonymous blogger? Surely, if you like, he’s one of us?”

And on the other side there was a question which was: here is a police officer who appears to be in breach of his police duties and also there is a real question about this kind of commentary made anonymously on the internet -- the whole issue of anonymity on the web. And, having listened to that debate, I took the view that this was -- and [I] still believe that this was -- firmly in the public interest. This was what dominated that conversation.

The second issue was: what do we do about the fact that this case has been taken without our knowledge to the High Court? What do we do if we’ve taken up the time of the High Court? Mr Justice Eady has ruled that this is in the public interest; we are thereby enabling everyone to publish the identity of NightJack. But more importantly, will the Times not then get known for bringing vexatious lawsuits to the High Court if we don’t honour that judgment?

Third, there was a question which was: the reporting had already led to Mr Horton’s identification within the Lancashire Constabulary, and fourth, we believed we had a behavioural problem with one of our reporters. We were going to have to address that.

The way it had been presented to me -- and that’s obviously different with hindsight -- but the way it had been presented to me was there was a concern about Mr Foster’s behaviour but that he had identified him through entirely legitimate means. On that basis, and in the light of all of those four things, I took the decision to publish.

However, as Harding later admitted:

I can now see that we gave insufficient consideration to the fact of the unauthorised email access in deciding whether or not to publish.

This “insufficient consideration” was notwithstanding the separate emails of Brett and Chappell, both emphasising the significance of the hack. Interestingly, at the same meeting on 15 June 2009, Harding instructed that disciplinary proceedings be launched against Foster for a “highly intrusive act”. So it would appear that Harding somehow regarded the hack as being very serious as an employment issue, but somehow not of particular weight as an editorial issue.

Nonetheless, Harding later insisted at the Leveson Inquiry:

If -- if it had been the case that Mr Foster had brought this to me and said, “I’d like to get access to Mr Horton’s email account for the purposes of this story,” I would have said no.

If Mr Brett had come to me and said, "Mr Foster has done this; can he continue to pursue the story?”, I would have said no.

If Mr Brett had come to me and said, “Do you think we should go to the High Court, given the circumstances of this story?”, I would have said no.

However, in my opinion, there was no good reason why Harding could have not said “no” at the editorial meeting of 15 June 2009 in light of the emails of Brett and Chappell, both emphasising the significance of the hack.

Eady’s judgment was formally handed down the following day and the Times website exposed Richard Horton to the world as the author of NightJack. The story was also published in the print edition of 17 June 2009.

It was one month to the day from when Horton’s email account had probably been hacked.


19 June 2009 to October 2011 -- the immediate aftermath

The outing of Richard Horton was controversial. To many observers, it seemed a needless and spiteful exercise by a mainstream media publication. The public interest arguments appeared hollow: no one else had been able to match information in the generic posts with any real-life cases. The supposed “advice” of the blog to those arrested was playfully ironic rather than subversive of policing. There just seemed no good purpose for the outing, and the public benefit of an outstanding and informative police blog had been pointlessly thrown away.

Even other journalists were unimpressed. As Paul Waugh of the London Evening Standard wrote at the time:

In NightJack’s case, I still cannot believe that the Times decided to embark on a disgraceful and pointless campaign to out him. Having found some clues about him, the paper inexplicably decided that this was some great issue of media freedom. The Times’s legal team then refused to back down rather than lose face.

The damage that the Times inflicted was far worse than just threatening one honest copper with the loss of his career. It undermined any policeman who wanted to speak off the record, the lifeblood of decent crime reporting. It also undermined any whistleblowing blogger, any public servant who wanted to tell it as it is from the front line, without the filter of a dreaded “media and communications office”. Maybe one day the Times will apologise, but knowing newspaper office politics as I do, I suspect it never will.

To which the Times columnist and leader writer Oliver Kamm replied, unaware of the true circumstances of what had happened:

I’m stupefied at the way Waugh has depicted this. Be aware that when he says, “The Times’s legal team refused to back down,” what he means is that the Times decided to defend itself against a legal attempt to muzzle it. Its reporter had discovered the identity of the police blogger (Richard Horton), through public sources and not by subterfuge or any invasion of privacy. Horton sought to protect his anonymity, and in my opinion he had no plausible grounds for doing so other than his own convenience.

If the Times had pried into Horton’s family life (of which I have no knowledge whatever), then that would have been wrong. But it didn’t. Horton wrote his blog, expressing partial political opinions, using information gained from his employment as a public servant. I once worked in public service (at the Bank of England), and I consider there is an ethos of confidentiality and political neutrality that you do not breach. Of course it was in the public interest to disclose Horton’s identity when he left clues to it. I’m surprised that Waugh retails uncritically the complaint of the freemasonry of bloggers, who assume that the constraints that we journalists observe ought not to apply to them.

Kamm added in another post:

A Great Historical Question to Which the Answer is No (“Was NightJack hacked into too?”)

[. . .]

[A]s Mr Justice Eady remarked in court, Foster uncovered Horton’s identity “by a process of deduction and detective work, mainly using information on the internet”.

We’re journalists: we do this sort of thing. 

The Times had not only hoodwinked Mr Justice Eady; it had now hoodwinked one of its own leader writers.

The Waugh/Kamm exchange illustrates essentially the state in which the story of NightJack’s outing remained for over two years: lingering concerns and confident counter-assurances, depending on whether one thought the Times had done a good thing or not. 

In the immediate aftermath, Horton underwent disciplinary proceedings and received a written warning from Lancashire Police. He did not return to blogging. Foster also received a written warning for the hack.

Brett eventually left the Times in July 2010 and Foster left in May 2011, both in circumstances unrelated to the NightJack incident.
The outing of NightJack slowly receded in time.
And then the Leveson Inquiry was established in the summer of 2011.


October to December 2011 – the Leveson questionnaire

The team at the Leveson Inquiry sent out questionnaires to various senior figures in the mainstream media. Three of those asked to provide witness statements in response to these questionnaires were Harding, Simon Toms (recently appointed interim director of legal affairs at News International) and Tom Mockridge (Rebekah Wade’s replacement as chief executive officer of News International). Neither Toms nor Mockridge was in post in 2009, and so neither could know any more about the hack than what he was told for the purposes of replying to the Inquiry’s questionnaire.

One question asked related to computer hacking.  Because of the disciplinary proceedings against Foster, the NightJack hack could not be denied or ignored, and so somehow it had to be mentioned. Yet the witness statements -- all signed on 14 October 2011 -- seemed to play down the incident.


Question Explain whether you, or the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun or the News of the World (to the best of your knowledge) ever used or commissioned anyone who used “computer hacking” in order to source stories, or for any reason.

Answer I am not aware that any NI title has ever used or commissioned anyone who used “computer hacking” in order to source stories. I have been made aware of one instance on the Times in 2009 which I understand may have involved a journalist attempting to access information in this way. However, I also understand that this was an act of the journalist and was not authorised by TNL. As such, I understand it resulted in the journalist concerned being disciplined.


The Times has never used or commissioned anyone who used computer hacking to source stories. There was an incident where the newsroom was concerned that a reporter had gained unauthorised access to an email account. When it was brought to my attention, the journalist faced disciplinary action. The reporter believed he was seeking to gain information in the public interest but we took the view he had fallen short of what was expected of a Times journalist. He was issued with a formal written warning for professional misconduct. 


Neither I nor, to the best of my knowledge, the Sunday Times or the Sun has ever used or commissioned anyone who used “computer hacking” in order to source stories or for any other reason. In relation to the Times, I am aware of an incident in 2009 where there was a suspicion that a reporter on the Times might have gained unauthorised access to a computer, although the reporter in question denied it. I understand that that person was given a formal written warning as a result and that they were subsequently dismissed following an unrelated incident.

Mockridge had initially been given incorrect information about the hack and this was corrected by his second witness statement of December 2011:

At paragraph 20.2 of my first witness statement I referred to a reporter at the Times who might have gained unauthorised access to a computer in 2009. At the date of my first witness statement, it was my understanding that the reporter in question had denied gaining such access. Following further enquiries, I now understand that the reporter in fact admitted the conduct during disciplinary proceedings, although he claimed that he was acting in the public interest. The journalist was disciplined as a result; he was later dismissed from the business for an unrelated matter.

These four statements were not immediately revealing. For example, from these statements alone, one would not know that the incident even related to a published story, let alone one where there had been related privacy litigation. Perhaps the hope was that no one would notice or investigate further.


January 2012 – How the story began to emerge

The four Leveson witness statements were published on the Leveson website on or after 10 January 2012 -- first the one by Toms, and then the others. The only mention in the media seemed to be a short report in the Press Gazette of 10 January 2012 that a Times journalist had been disciplined for computer hacking.

I happened to see the Press Gazette story and because of the 2009 date of the incident, I immediately suspected it was about NightJack. I had blogged about the outing at the time and had long been concerned that the “dark arts” had somehow been engaged. When the other three witness statements were published, I pieced together what they did say over 16-17 January 2012 on the Jack of Kent blog.

In essence, one could deduce from the witness statements the following apparent facts:

  • the incident was in 2009;
  • the reporter was male (“he”);
  • the computer-hacking was in the form of unauthorised access to an email account;
  • a disciplinary process was commenced after concerns from the newsroom (not entirely correct, as it turned out);
  • the reporter admitted the unauthorised access during the disciplinary process (also not correct, as it was admitted before publication, let alone the disciplinary process);
  • the incident was held to be “professional misconduct” and the reporter was disciplined;


  • the reporter was no longer with the business, having been dismissed on an unrelated matter.

On 17 January 2012, Harding gave evidence to Leveson Inquiry, but he was not asked about the computer-hacking incident referred to in his witness statement.

Meanwhile both Paul Waugh and I connected the incident with NightJack, and late on 17 January 2012 David Leigh at the Guardian confirmed that a Times journalist had indeed hacked into the NightJack account. The next day at the New Statesman I drew attention to the worrying possibility that the Times may have therefore misled the High Court. It was the first time the possibility had been raised that the High Court had been misled.

Then, on 19 January 2012, the Times itself admitted the computer-hacking incident was in respect of NightJack. Harding sent a letter about NightJack to the Leveson Inquiry (which was not revealed until 25 January 2012):

As you will be aware, in my witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry I raised concerns that I had about an incident of computer-hacking at the Times. I was not asked about it when questioned on Tuesday but I felt it was important to address the issue raised by the publication of my statement with our readers. So I draw your attention to an article on page 11 of this morning’s paper which seeks to give a more detailed account of what happened.

In June 2009 we published a story in what we strongly believed was the public interest. When the reporter informed his managers that in the course of his investigation he had, on his own initiative, sought unauthorised access to an email account, he was told that if wanted to pursue the story, he had to use legitimate means to do so identifying the person at the heart of the story, using his own sources and information publicly available on the internet. On that basis, we made the case in the High Court that the newspaper should be allowed to publish in the public interest.

After the judge ruled that we could publish in the public interest, we did. We also addressed the concern that had emerged about the reporter’s conduct, namely that he had used a highly intrusive method to seek information without prior approval. He was formally disciplined and the incident has also informed our thinking in putting in place an effective audit trail to ensure that, in the future, we have a system to keep account of how we make sensitive decisions in the newsgathering process.

This was an isolated incident and I have no knowledge of anything else like it. If the inquiry has any further questions about it, I would, of course, be happy to answer them.

In the meantime both Tom Watson MP and I called for Harding to be recalled to the Leveson Inquiry to answer questions about how the High Court seemed to have been misled. I also blogged that the Times owed Horton an apology. 


February to March 2012 -- the Leveson Inquiry questions Harding and Brett

What had really happened about the NightJack hack now began to came out. Harding was recalled to the Leveson Inquiry and provided his account of what happened, which I have drawn on for the narrative above. He also apologised to Horton and this apology was mentioned on the front page of the newspaper. The same day, Horton was reported as launching legal action.

The main thrust of Harding’s evidence at Leveson was to shift the blame on to Brett. But this did not seem entirely fair. In my opinion, once it became clear that what seemed to be a breach of the Computer Misuse Act had occurred, the editor of the Times could and should have found out more about what the court had been told. And, of course, it was Harding’s own decision to publish, even though he was aware that there had been a hack and had had an email from Brett explaining the hack’s legal significance.

The Leveson Inquiry also summoned Brett. In an extraordinary and brutal examination, in which Lord Justice Leveson took a leading role, Brett’s conduct in the matter was placed under intense scrutiny:

BRETT: [Foster] had to demonstrate to me and to certainly Horton and everybody else that he could do it legitimately from outside in, and that’s what he did.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: But he couldn’t. How do you know he could? Because he’s choosing what facts he’s chasing up on. Of course it all looks beautiful in his statement, and I understand that, but because he knows what facts he’s looking for, he knows what bits he has to join together, he knows the attributes and characteristics of the person he has to search out, so he can search out for somebody with those corresponding characteristics.

[. . .]

BRETT: Mr Foster had by this stage done the exercise totally legitimately.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: No, he hadn’t, with great respect. He’d used what he knew and found a way through to achieve the same result. Because he couldn’t put out of his mind that which he already knew.

Lord Justice Leveson turned to Foster’s reference to “confidential sources” in his witness statement.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: With great respect, it’s smoke, isn’t? There wasn’t a confidential source here at all. There was a hacking into an email. He may very well have talked to all sorts of people, but to say “I won’t reveal information about confidential sources” suggests he has confidential information from a source which he’s not going to talk about, for understandable reasons, but in fact it’s just not true.

Brett was asked about his assurance that the allegations about Foster were “baseless”:

BRETT: I don’t think I should have used the word “baseless”, with hindsight.

And Lord Justice Leveson delivered the final blows:

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Let’s just cease to be subjective, shall we. Let’s look at Mr Foster’s statement . . . To put the context of the statement in, he’s talking about the blog and he says that he decided that one or two things had to be true and that it was in the public interest to reveal it, so there he is wanting to find out who is responsible for NightJack . . . Would you agree that the inference from this statement is that this is how he went about doing it?

BRETT: Yes, it certainly does suggest --

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: And then he starts at paragraph 12: “I began to systematically run the details of the articles in the series through Factiva, a database of newspaper articles collated from around the country. I could not find any real-life examples of the events featured in part one of the series.” That suggests that’s how he started and that’s how he’s gone about it, doesn’t it?

BRETT: It certainly suggests he has done precisely that, yes.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: And that’s how he’s gone about it?


LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: That’s not accurate, is it?


BRETT: It is not entirely accurate, no.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Paragraph 15. I’m sorry, Mr Jay, I’ve started now. Paragraph 15: “Because of the startling similarities between the blog post and the case detailed in the newspaper report, I began to work under the assumption” -- “I began to work under the assumption” -- “that if the author was, as claimed, a detective, they probably worked . . .” et cetera. Same question: that simply isn’t accurate, is it?

BRETT: My Lord, we’re being fantastically precise.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Oh, I am being precise because this is a statement being submitted to a court, Mr Brett.


LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Would you not want me to be precise?

BRETT: No, of course I’d want you to be precise. It’s not the full story.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Paragraph 20. I repeat -- I’m not enjoying this: “At this stage I felt sure that the blog was written by a real police officer.” That is actually misleading, isn’t it?

BRETT: It certainly doesn’t give the full story.

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Well, there are two or three other examples, but I’ve had enough.

That was it; there was little more that needed to be said. It was, as lawyers would say, as plain as a pikestaff that the High Court had, in effect, been misled by the Times, just as it was now clear that the Times had outed the NightJack blogger though senior managers were aware at the time that his identity had been established using an unlawful email hack and that this was a seeming breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

A person’s privacy had been invaded; a criminal offence appeared to have been committed; the High Court had been effectively misled; senior managers had pointed out the legal significance of all this in contemporaneous emails; and the person’s anonymity was to be irretrievably destroyed.  But the editor of the Times published the story anyway.


David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of Jack of Kent.

Research assistance from Natalie Peck.

This post is dedicated, with permission, to Richard Horton.


The NightJack blog.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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MPs vote no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn after shadow cabinet revolt: as it happened

Follow the latest appointments, resignations and news with contributions from the New Statesman team.

Hello, and welcome. Jeremy Corbyn has lost a vote of no confidence and now faces a challenge from Labour Party MPs. We're closing the blog but we'll keep reporting and analysing the story as the leadership race comes into focus.

This is what you need to know:

  • MPs have passed a no confidence motion against Jeremy Corbyn by 172 votes to 40, with 4 abstentions
  • Jeremy Corbyn vows to defy "unconstitutional vote" and stay on rather than "betraying" party members
  • The main challenger is tipped to be either Angela Eagle or Tom Watson
  • Meanwhile the Scottish Government is wooing Brussels and Stephen Crabb is tipped to run for Tory leader

From the moment the EU referendum results rolled in, all eyes were on Eurosceptic Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But he made no move to resign.

Then, overnight on Saturday, Hilary Benn was sacked from the shadow cabinet. The game was on. Sunday saw a string of resignations from the shadow cabinet, and by Monday roughly two thirds had gone. 

But Corbyn wasn't going to give up so easily.

Backed by his old friend and Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, he replaced the shadow cabinet and appeared at a rally organised by the grassroots movement Momentum. 

The Parliamentary Labour Party was determined to press on. There was an emotional meeting that spilled out into the Westminster corridors. Margaret Hodge tabled a no confidence vote. And then, on Tuesday afternoon, MPs voted in a secret ballot.

The result was damning. Just 40 MPs backed Corbyn, compared to 172 who told him to go. A further four abstained. 

Still, Corbyn refused to go. He denounced the vote as having "no constitutional legitimacy" and said he would "not betray" party members by resigning. 

With the Corbynites and PLP at loggerheads, it is still unclear how the battle will end. The PLP must now come up with a candidate with a chance of beating the hugely-popular Corbyn, or find a way to strike him off the ballot. 

The fight for the soul of the Labour Party has only just begun. 

For the whole story, scroll down...

17:40 Another resignation.

17:34 A tweet from ITV's Chris Ship suggests we'll get Watson or Eagle, but not some kind of Team Weagle.

17:18 For anyone tuning in now who doesn't like to read their news backwards, my colleague Anoosh has written this helpful guide to the vote of no confidence and what happens next.

17:16 Christina Rees, one of the few remaining ministers from Corbyn's original cabinet, has resigned:

17:13 Labour MP Wes Streeting tweets that Corbyn's position is "untenable":

17:03   Jeremy Corbyn has made a statement saying the vote of no confidence has "no constitutional legitimacy":

“In the aftermath of last week’s referendum, our country faces major challenges. Risks to the economy and living standards are growing. The public is divided. 

“The Government is in disarray. Ministers have made it clear they have no exit plan, but are determined to make working people pay with a new round of cuts and tax rises.

“Labour has the responsibility to give a lead where the Government will not. We need to bring people together, hold the Government to account, oppose austerity and set out a path to exit that will protect jobs and incomes.

“To do that we need to stand together. Since I was elected leader of our party nine months ago, we have repeatedly defeated the Government over its attacks on living standards. 

“Last month, Labour become the largest party in the local elections. In Thursday’s referendum, a narrow majority voted to leave, but two thirds of Labour supporters backed our call for a remain vote. 

“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.

“We are a democratic party, with a clear constitution. Our people need Labour party members, trade unionists and MPs to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country.”

16:57 More on that ballot situation. If Corbyn doesn't get enough nominations, Corbynistas will argue that the rule you need 20% of the MPs to nominate you only applies to challengers. According to lawyers Doughty Chambers, this doesn't apply to incumbents, like Jezza. You can read the full advice here.

16:45 The next challenge for anti-Corbyn MPs is to keep him off the ballot. Their job is made easier by the fact he has only 40 core supporters. But if he does get on, under current rules there's a good chance he could win again.

I met activists from the pro-Corbyn grassroots organisation Momentum at a rally on Monday night, as the coup gathered pace. One organiser told me if there is another leadership election "Jeremy will win again". It's undeniable he's electrified a lot of activists on the left and captured the imagination of party members. I don't see them jumping to support Eagle or Watson, especially given it's a hostile takeover.

16:38 Labour heavyweights Tom Watson and Angela Eagle are meeting now, according to Kay Burley from Sky News.

Eagle has grown in prominence under the Corbyn leadership and has been making squawks about "unity" in recent days. Watson won the deputy leadership by more than double the share of the vote gained by rival candidates. 

16:24 Labour MPs have passed a no confidence motion in their leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The vote was 172 to 40. This breakdown is important because Corbyn will need 50 nominations to get on the ballot again.

Our Political Editor, George Eaton, isn't surprised:


16:09 The source of all the Crabb gossip appears to be an email inviting Tory MPs for networking drinks, according to The Mirror. The email, from Maria Caulfield, Simon Hoare and Craig Williams, says Crabb is standing as a candidate.

15:53 It seems that Crabb is scuttling away from the headlines. The BBC has changed its headline to "expected" to run. But The Sun already seemed sure this "blue collar dream team" was standing last night. Makes Labour look like an oasis of calm...

15:34 Pat Glass is Labour's new shadow education secretary, but not for that long, it turns out. She has written to her local Labour branch formally giving notice that she does not intend to stand in the next General Election, which "could come as soon as October 2016".

She writes that representing the people she grew up with has been a privilege and an honour, but continues:

"Whilst I had always intended to do no more than two terms in Parliament I have found the last six months very,very difficult.

"The referendum has been incredibly divisive, it divided families and communities and I have found it bruising in many respects. It has had an impact on both me and my family as I am sure it has had on many others."

Glass, who campaigned to Remain, revealed earlier that she had received death threats and stayed away from the referendum count as a result. She has been an MP since 2010, and a Shadow minister since January.

15:24 A little bit of blue-on-blue action now. Stephen Crabb, the Department for Work and Pensions minister who replaced Iain Duncan Smith, is going to run for PM. 

Crabb, who backed Remain, is launching his bid with Osborne protege and Business secretary Sajid Javid as his right-hand man.

He'll have some powerful supporters - political star and leader of the Scottish Tories Ruth Davidson has previously described him as her "political soulmate". Both Crabb and Javid come from working class backgrounds, which could help the Tory leadership escape the pervading whiff of Bullingdon Club, most strongly surrounding a certain Boris Johnson... 

14:45 STOP PRESS. Our Political Editor, George Eaton, has been spotted with Keanu Reaves.

George is so dedicated in his research of the current philosophical challenges facing the Labour Party he'll turn to The Matrix to find the truth.

14:24 A fabulous new video experience of the newly-appointed Shadow cabinet has emerged. 

As the camera begins to roll, a worried-looking Jeremy Corbyn says "This seems like a bad idea". He then says to his spin doctor: "Seumas, I'm not sure this is a great idea either."

He then gives a polite smile while his eyes dart back to the camera. And then asks: "Are we getting the camera to go or what?"

Deputy leader Tom Watson, widely tipped as a leadership challenger, sits uneasily beside him. 

It's great that media-shy Corbyn has opened up to cameras. But my colleague and electoral soothsayer Stephen Bush isn't convinced.


13:08 Labour MPs may be about to bury Jeremy Corbyn in a secret ballot, but outside the walls of Parliament, his supporters are ready to fight. I met some of them at the Momentum rally on Monday night. You can read more about it here.

12:59 Julia here. While Westminster is a hotbed of rumour, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been getting on with it. She is meeting European Parliament President Martin Schultz tomorrow. 

Although the SNP's promise of an independent European Scotland was shot down during the Scottish referendum, it seems this time round MEPs are sympathetic. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgium PM, who leads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe parliamentary group tweeted: "It's wrong that Scotland might be taken out of [the] EU." Scroll down to see the standing ovation a Scottish MEP earned when he urged the Parliament "do not let Scotland down". 

12:47 George here. A Labour source tells me that "Angela Eagle has told Tom Watson that she will stand aside if he runs" against Jeremy Corbyn. The source said that this was "on the basis of his mandate as deputy leader against her lack of one having stood in the same race [in which she finished fourth]". But an Eagle aide tells me this is "absolutely not true". 

11:28 Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister Alan Whitehead has resigned.

In his resignation letter, he says: "You are a good, decent, committed person, but unfortunately not the right person to lead the Opposition."

He thanks Corbyn for giving the opportunity to work for an area he feels passionate about, but continues: "I cannot give you complete loyalty in this position and it would be dishonest of me to continue to occupy it."


10:57 For a bit of light relief, let's turn to the European Parliament.

Jean-Claude Juncker asked Nigel Farage: "I am really surprised that you are here. You are fighting for the exit, the British people voted in favour of the exit. Why are you here?"

Farage in turn tells MEPs "Virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives." The President calms them down by telling them "you're behaving like UKIP".

Scottish MEP Alyn Smith, though, gets a standing ovation.

He says he is proudly European: "The people of Scotland along with the people of NI and the people of London and lots of people in England and Wales also." Brandishing a map showing Scotland's Remain vote, he adds: "please remember this. Scotland did not let you die. Please, I beg you, cher colleague, do not let Scotland down now."


10:37 On Angela Eagle, another potential challenger to Corbyn, a Labour source told me: "Angela is widely regarded as the candidate who can unite the Labour Party and heal the divisions. She has impressed MPs with her performances at PMQs and has the skill and intellect to rebuild Labour into the credible opposition that the country is crying out for. It is no surprise that colleagues are turning to her, she is very much considered as a tough Angela Merkel-type figure, someone who can lead the party through this difficult period."

10:31 George here. Labour MPs expect a two-thirds vote of no confidence in Corbyn when the result is announced around 4:30pm. They then expect a mass resignation of whips (a leader's last line of defence) to follow. 

I'm also told there is "growing pressure" on Tom Watson from all wings of the party to stand against Corbyn. 

08:49 The FTSE 100 has opened up 2.09 per cent, with housebuilder Persimmon up 7.25 per cent. This suggests investors are feeling more optimistic about the property market.

More crucially, the domestic-facing FTSE 250 is up 2.86 per cent.

The pound has "stabilised", but that doesn't mean much if you didn't exchange your holiday money in time.


08:38 More from Jeremy Hunt, best known for infuriating junior doctors, who is "seriously considering" joining the leadership race.

He calls for a second vote on a deal resembling "Norway plus". Says full access to the single market is essential for jobs, but with some immigration controls. 

According to Hunt: "I do think that deal needs to have some sort of democratic endorsement. My preference would be in the 2020 Conservative manifesto."

He then starts talking about Schengen freedom of movement rules that have never applied to the UK anyway. 

08:29 Corbyn loyalist Diane Abbott is not giving any ground to the PLP. She tells Today nearly 60 per cent of Labour members still support the leadership: "Fleet Street and Labour MPs at Westminster do not choose the leader of the Labour Party. The Party does that."

She accuses media commentators of being "Westminster-centric" and questions the validity of a no confidence vote: "We have to remember this vote of no confidence doesn't exist in the rule book. It has no meaning."

08:22 "Did I want Britain to remain in the EU? Yes. Did I fear the consequences? Yes." Osborne signs off by saying he doesn't do things by half measures, but he loves his country and will "do everything I can" in the weeks and months ahead.

08:19 Osborne says there are loads of contingency plans in place for financial shocks. He says accusations otherwise are "nonsensical" and "it was not the responsibility" of those who wanted to remain in the EU to explain what happened when we voted out. He says he's not backing a leadership candidate but says a Remain campaigner could stand: "The candidate now who is able to articulate now the clearest, crispest version of what we are seeing is the candidate who I think can lead the country."

NB: Theresa May officially supported Remain.

08:13 Osborne, who was understood to have opposed a referendum, says: "We had a big and lively debate about it inside the Conservative Party." He refuses to be drawn on his own discussions, but insists: "I supported the decision we collectively took to hold a referendum."

He tells the BBC his successors will have to show the world Britain can live within its means: "We are absolutely going to have to provide fiscal security to people."

In other words, there will be a Punishment Budget, but he's leaving that for the next Conservative leadership to dish out. 

08:01 In non-Labour news, George Osborne, a prominent Remain backer, has ruled himself out of a Tory leadership contest. He had previously been tipped to succeed Cameron. It paves the way for a contest between the hugely popular Leave campaigner Boris Johnson and heavyweight Home Secretary Theresa May. Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt has called for a second referendum. 

07:58 Another set of stories coming out about the Momentum rally last night, just outside Parliament. I was there, and the devotion to Jeremy Corbyn was striking. But who exactly do his supporters represent?

The Today programme has captured an argument between a Corbyn supporter and a lone dissenter. The dissenter is told: "I would just leave if I were you.

"You're a single lone voice here walking around with your Resign placard. You on the right wing of the party is not what we want to hear."

He was certainly a brave man - I saw posters describing the PLP as "scabs".

07:55 Tales from last night's fraught meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

The BBC reports MPs were standing in corridors in full view of Corbyn aides calling for him to go. It got emotional - some MPs left the meeting in tears.

Margaret Hodge, who proposed the no confidence vote, is now on the Today programme. She says she has had hundreds of messages in support, and it's the millions of voters that matter. She says MPs are telling her "Jeremy's a problem on the doorstep".

Corbyn should do "what all decent men do" and consider his position, she says. It is in the best interests of the party, and the country.

07:21 A quick look at the Asian markets. And it's looking a little more stable.

Japan's Nikkei was up 0.09% last night, but China's Hang Seng index was dowwn 0.76%. Investors see Japan as relatively stable right now, whereas China has problems of its own. The FTSE 100 closed down, at 5,982.20 last night. 

The pound has crept up against the dollar overnight, but  it is still in the doldrums compared to before the vote. 

Meanwhile, Martin Gilbert from Aberdeen Asset Management has some intereting observations on the chances of a Scottish independence referendum (he supported the last one). "Nicola is a pretty cautious politician," he told the BBC. "She's not going to go for a referendum unless she's pretty sure she'll win it."

The key point is whether Europe will allow Scotland to remain, he adds.

07:17 My old paper, the staunchly Labour Mirror, has told Jeremy Corbyn he's got to go. 

It comes hours after Corbyn hit back at a rally of his grassroots supporters, Momentum. He told them: "I do not want to live in a country where there are people sleeping on the streets while the mansions are left empty.

"The political atmosphere we have is about challenging these orthodoxies."

TUESDAY 07:09 Julia here. Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter has resigned, according to the BBC. He calls himself a "comrade" of Corbyn and, damningly, only resigned after discussing it with local party activists.

18:25: Am told that there will be no news tonight. See you all tomorrow at 7am. (sob)

18:12: Reshuffle news! Jon Trickett is moved from shadow local government to shadow lord president of the council, the only post in politics that sounds like a baddie in Star Wars. Replacing him at shadow local gov is Graeme Morris, promoted from the whips' office. Debbie Abrahams is promoted to shadow secretary for work and pensions, Barry Gardiner goes to shadow energy, while Richard Burgon is made shadow secretary of state for justice.

Not much news on who - or if - the junior posts will be filled by. 

18:05: Just when I thought I was out. Richard Burden, a long-time fellow traveller of Jeremy Corbyn's, from the left of the party, has resigned, warning that he is "making things worse" (Corbyn, that is, though Corbyn might equally say it of Burden).

"I have always thought of you as a friend. We have worked together on things like Israel and Palestine for years. I did not vote for you as Leader of our Party for reasons I outlined at the time, but I accepted and respected the victory you achieved.

"I have never joined in with the destructive sniping that has taken place from some quarters since pretty much the day you were elected and I hope you accept that I have served loyally as Shadow Minister for Strategic Transport Networks.

"But we are where we are now. In a Parliamentary democracy, leadership involves being able to work with colleagues around you - people who have also been elected to serve their constituents just as much as you or I have."

17:30: Stephen here: Jack Dromey has resigned as shadow home office minister. I think that's a clean sweep of the Home Office team. 

16:58 Here's a clanger. Stephen Bush has sent me a comment piece from Richard Murphy, who advised Corbyn during the leadership election. He's backing those "demanding change":

“Now his leadership is in crisis. I will make myself unpopular for saying this, but I think that those demanding change are right to do so, even if I will not agree with much of their reasoning. In my opinion Corbyn has been guilty of three things. First, he has not grown into the job in the way John McDonnell has into his: after nine months he still feels like the reluctant leader who cannot do up his tie when necessary, and I hate to say it, but such messages are important. People believe that this is a slap-dash approach that means he cannot lead as a result.”

16:49 Labour MP Kevin Brennan is asking when the NHS can get the extra £350million promised.

Cameron answers with a grin "my successor will have to explain where the money's going".

Meanwhile in Scotland... Labour leader Kezia Dugdale signals independence may no longer be impossible to stomach. She has written an opinion piece arguing "the case for independence is stronger now".

16:42 Will Straw, head of Britain Stronger in Europe calls on Corbyn to go:

"Jeremy Corbyn should follow David Cameron’s lead. Under his leadership, Labour is further removed from its industrial heartlands than ever before with 29 per cent of its supporters threatening to go elsewhere. New research from the IPPR think tank shows that the poorest families will be hit twice as hard by new inflation caused by sterling’s slide as the richest—many living in areas that voted overwhelmingly to leave.

"Rather than making a clear and passionate Labour case for EU membership, Corbyn took a week’s holiday in the middle of the campaign and removed pro-EU lines from his speeches.

"Rather than finding imaginative ways for Labour to present a united front and get its message across to wavering supporters, Corbyn vetoed a planned event featuring all Labour’s formers leaders."

16:33: A rumour that Caroline Lucas will join the shadow cabinet is nonsense according to Anoosh, who knows more about the inner workings of the Greens than some Greens do.

16:23 After the game of Where's George? it's time for Hunt the Boris. Neither Boris Johnson nor Michael Gove have turned up to the debate in the House of Commons today. 

Boris was last seen in the pages of The Telegraph, where he said "Britain is part of Europe" and that voters were more interested in democracy than immigration.

16:06 Hilary Benn stands up in Parliament to cheers. Perhaps wisely, he sticks to an international question on influencing foreign policy in Syria and elsewhere. 

15:52 Labour MPs have shouted "Resign" at Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament. 

Corbyn struggled to say "the country will thank neither the benches in front of me nor behind for indulging in internal faction and manoeuvring at this time," above the noise. 

15:29: Keir Starmer has resigned as shadow home office minister, saying that following yesterday and today's resignations, his situation has "materially changed" and it is "simply untenable now to suggest we can offer an effective opposition without a change of leader".

15:18: Here's where we are. Most of the shadow cabinet has resigned, and much of the frontbench with them. Two of the three biggest trade unions, the GMB and Unison, have given Corbyn a vote of somewhat equivocal confidence. There is a no confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn from the PLP tomorrow. Corbyn is insisting that he will remain in post and will be a candidate in any leadership election. Well-placed sources insist that Iain McNicol has been given legal advice that Corbyn will need to seek 50 nominations from the PLP to stand. 

15:11: Labour's leadership team in the Lords (Angela Smith, leader in the Lords, and Steve Bassam, Chief Whip) are writing to Jeremy Corbyn outlining their reasons for declining to attend shadow cabinet while he is leader and their approach moving forward. They have the full support of their frontbench team, who will continue to act as an opposition in the Lords but a remove from the leadership. (In practice, the Lords have been ploughing a seperate furrow since Corbyn's election.)

15:04: 4000 people are expected to attend* Momentum's rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn. They will hear speeches from Corbynite MPs and trade union general secretaries, with the FBU's Matt Wrack among them. 

*have clicked "maybe attending" on Facebook.

14:44: Some pushback from that latest update. Paul Waugh at HuffPo says that "it's what they don't say that matters". I dunno, at some point fairly soon the big unions will need to back Iain McNicol up at the NEC  if they're to keep Corbyn off the ballot. Are they in that place yet? 

14:37: Or not. Unison have just released a statement in support of Jeremy Corbyn. The wind feels like it might be coming out of the plotters' sails a bit. 

14:33: Just realised there is a nightmare scenario in which Corbyn neither resigns nor do we reach a point where we can say the crisis is over, locking the NS politics team in a perpetual state of liveblogging. 

14:23: I just typed "this is why the Tory approach of throwing out just the top two, guaranteeing the winner has a genuine power base in parliament works better" then I remembered this would have meant a whole summer of Andy Burnham vs Yvette Cooper, a contest so boring and soul-crushing I actually felt my heartbeat slow a little thinking of it. 

14:21: I said I would produce a full list of the resignees. I lied. Too much is happening. Just Rosie Winterton and Jon Ashworth unaccounted for from the shadow cabinet now. 

14:18: Luciana Berger has resigned from the shadow cabinet. 

14:16: Update on that LYL no con. Yeah, I wouldn't read too much into that, its leadership at the moment has always been hostile to the Corbyn project. There is also a letter going around signed by over 200 members of Young Labour, which has several former Corbyn supporters on there but is largely made up of former supporters of Andy Burnham, Yvettte Cooper and Liz Kendall. 

14:12: Somewhat equivocal statement from the GMB's general secretary Tim Roache.

Something to please both sides in there.

14:06: Have been asked to do a list of all the exits so far. With you in just a minute. 

14:02: Blimey. This is why the Watson playbook that worked against Tony Blair might not work this time. 

13:56: London Young Labour's executive have passed a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. Not sure what their political complexion is at the moment. I am reliably told by the left it is fairly right-wing at the moment, and from the right, etc, etc. 

13:52: In other news, the Conservatives have announced their leadership timetable. Nominations will open on Wednesday and there will be a new leader in place by 2 September. 

13:48: Better version of the joke I told at 13:29. 

13:46: 'In Dreams Begin Responsibilities' is the last episode of the brilliant TV show My So-Called Life, which struggled to find an audience and was cancelled after less than a year by short-sighted corporate executives. There's a column in that. 

13:42: No word from Jon Ashworth, but he has changed his Twitter bio.

13:35: People keep asking me what the members think of all this. My sense is that there is a majority for change from the current approach but I'm not sure there's a candidate who can win that majority. People want someone who can keep the politics, sharpen up the competence and approach, and bring together more of the PLP. Not clear there is someone who fits that bill.  As I wrote yesterday:

"Having called around this morning there is certainly some movement away from Corbyn, partly due to the Vice documentary and also due to the referendum campaign. My impression, however, is that the candidate they are looking for – someone who could have much of Corbyn’s politics but with greater political nous and the ability to bring together more of the PLP – doesn’t exist in the parliamentary party. There are some lower-ranked members of the 2010 and 2015 intakes who might fit the bill, but their time is far from ripe. It's also not clear to me how significant that movement away is in percentage terms - Corbyn won by 40 points and was 19 points clear of needing a second round, so his capacity to survive erosion is strong."

For what it's worth, Open Labour, the soft left pressure group, has called for a fresh leadership election in the light of the referendum result

13:33: Angela Eagle just gave a very emotional interview on the World At One. She sounds close to tears. Listen to it here (about five minutes back). 

13:29: Ooh, I've just thought of a joke. (Lower your expectations.)

Q: How can you tell Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet came from IKEA?

A: It took days to assemble but it fell over the second a fat man leaned on it. 

(I told you to lower them.)

13:26: Team Corbyn are still insisting they will be able to fill the gaps with some "surprising names". At this point, name of any sort would be fairly surprising. 

13:23: Nick Thomas-Symonds, author of a very good biography of Attlee and a biography of Nye Bevan I haven't got around to reading yet, has resigned as shadow employment minister.

13:17: One woman rebuttal service.

13:13: Good question via Twitter: the plotters' favoured approach will be a coronation. But who? It can't be any of Dan Jarvis, Chuka Umunna, Heidi Alexander, Jon Ashworth, Gloria DePiero or anyone else tipped to do it long term, as that would likely trigger a full-blooded leadership race. My guess is Tom Watson or Angela Eagle. But not inconcievable that Yvette Cooper could do it. 

13:09: That last update has generated a lot of texts saying the same thing "What about Ivan Lewis?" A question that is also its own answer. 

But seriously: Ivan Lewis, sacked by Corbyn via text message in his first reshuffle, is running for Greater Manchester mayor and has called for Corbyn to go. My instinct is that whatever happens, Burnham has done his chances of scooping up the Greater Manchester mayor no harm at all, though. 

13:05: The only members of the shadow cabinet who are still in the same jobs they were this morning are: Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Andy Burnham, Jon Ashworth, Rosie Winterton and Luciana Berger. Both Berger and Burnham are seeking the nominations for the new metro mayors for Merseyside and Greater Manchester respectively. 

13:04: Oh, that's a shame. Labour's excellent Women and Equalities lead, Kate Green, has resigned. 

13:02: On Lisa Nandy, can I reccomend my colleague Anoosh Chakelian's long piece on Nandy's constituency?  It's a great read.

12:58: Jim Waterson has this tidbit on the new shadow cabinet.

Waiting by the phone here. My peerage may yet come. 

12:56: My MP, Diane Abbott, currently on course to be shadow secretary of state for everything in addition to her new berth at Health, is not having any of this coup nonsense.

12:50: Team Corbyn tell George he will fill the vacancies, and the new appointments are "not just lefties". If anyone in Team Corbyn is reading, I am willing to accept a peerage. 

12:49: Reminded of Eric Varley, the industry secretary under Jim Callaghan and from the same tradition on the Labour right as Tom Watson, who once quipped that "'it's carrying democracy too far if you don't know the result of the vote before the meeting." 

12:46: It's still not clear who the alternative to Corbyn is. Owen Smith and Lisa Nandy have called on Tom Watson to assume the position. I am hearing that Yvette Cooper is still interested and indeed intervened to put pressure on several wavering shadow cabinet ministers to resign but that might trigger a full-blooded contest, which the plotters are keen to avoid. 

12:42: To lose one Eagle is unfortunate. To lose two looks like the culmination of an organised plot. Maria Eagle quits the shadow cabinet. 

12:40: Nia Griffith has released a statement on her resignation.

“This morning I met with Jeremy Corbyn, to discuss the much needed leadership and unity that the Party needs in the light of the referendum aftermath and a potentially imminent general election.

However I do not feel that our discussions this morning gave me the confidence that he could now achieve this unity. I have therefore tendered my resignation as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales.

I made clear to Jeremy that I have always admired his commitment to the causes that matter to him, but last week’s referendum result and the likelihood of an early general election mean that the party now requires new leadership. Jeremy has lost the confidence of the party, including many members who initially supported him, and he should now do the honourable thing and resign.

It has been a tremendous privilege to serve as Shadow Welsh Secretary for the past nine months, in particular to play my part in re-electing a Welsh Labour Government which is now more important than ever before.”

Her juniors, Susan Elan Jones and Gerald Jones have also resigned. 

12:38: Episode 113: The One With All The Resignations. 

12:37: Imagine if the Labour party were a long-running show and you were watching it after a year away from it. 

12:33: Yesterday I said that I thought it was more likely that Jeremy Corbyn would survive than not. People are asking me what I think now. Honest answer: search me, guv. Two things I know to be absolutely true: Labour never gets rid of its leaders, and you never bet against Tom Watson when control of the Labour party is on the line. They can't both be true. 

12:31:  Am hearing that Nia Griffith, shadow secretary of state for Wales, and her junior ministers, will be next to quit. 

12:27:  It's all kicking off. And not just in the Labour party. Julia's got the inside track on what's going on in the markets and why you should care:

"Some readers may be tempted to shout “Good riddance” as shares plummet and investors miss out on profits. But the market turbulence is telling us something more serious about our economy than simply a tale of profit and loss."

12:26 Stephen has come back from wherever he was - a meeting, probably, or primal scream therapy - and is taking over this liveblog. It's been a gas, guys.

12:25 Apparently George hasn't got the message that we're meant to call anyone who opposes Corbyn a "Blairite" these days.

12:23 The Guardian has a video of John McDonnell saying this morning that Jeremy Corbyn should not resign, saying they should look to the interests of the country, rather than "party political" interests.

12:21 They're coming thick and fast now. John Healey has hand delivered his resignation letter - very classy. (See 11:50)

12:20 A good thought from Stephen:

The Eagle has flown the coop to join the coup! (Sorry.)  Just one thing, tho: that leaves a shadow cabinet position on Labour’s ruling NEC in Corbyn’s choosing, which could turn out to be crucial later on. 

If Maria stays, will we have spread Eagles?

12:16 EAGLE DOWN: Angela Eagle has posted her resignation letter, saying Labour needs a leader who can "unite rather than divide" the Labour Party.

12:12 Meanwhile, over in Ireland Taoiseach Enda Kenny is addressing the Dáil on Brexit. He says that "the closer the UK is to the EU", the better it is for Ireland - notable, given that other countries are keen to give the UK the cold shoulder as soon as possible.

You can watch a live stream here.

12:11 From George, reports that Keith Veness has said Corbyn "should have come out openly for Brexit". (See 11:18, when Chris Bryant told the BBC that he suspects Corbyn voted "out".)

12:09 The Buzzfeed bingo card is nearly full - here's the latest update, if you're playing along at home. (Or at your desk, if you're in work but can't focus because there's too much news.)

12:06 Some hot goss from Anushka Asthana: apparently Smith, Nandy and co weren't expecting to call for Corbyn to go...

11:59 Lisa Nandy has ruled herself out of a leadership contest.

11:53 Lisa Nandy and Owen Smith, both firmly in Labour's soft left, have resigned, calling for Tom Watson to become the temporary leader.

11:50 Resignation by Twitter and Facebook is becoming a bit tired now. What other media would you like to see MPs use to resign? (Personally, I think a stereo held in the air Say Anything-style on College Green would be quite good).

Do share your ideas @stephanieboland before a serious political journalist takes the liveblog back.

11:47 Another one down: Jenny Chapman has posted her resignation from the shadow education team to Facebook.

11:44 Good news: after a recent trip to Ireland I forgot to change some euro back, and will now be buying a charming maisonette in Bayswater. You're all invited to the housewarming.

11:40 Aside from the fact that Eagle, Smith and Nandy sounds like a prog rock supergroup, their resignations would be particularly significant given recent rumblings (see George at 11:04)  about potential leadership bids.

11:37 Hearing that further high-profile resignations may be imminent. Time to put the kettle on, folks.

11:35 For those of you into that sort of things, Ladbrokes have published the latest odds for leaders of both the Conservative and Labour Parties. No mention of the duck (11:16).

11:28 Seumas Milne says that they're not having trouble filling the new shadow cabinet: "there's always people".

11:24 Jess Phillips has posted her resignation letter, signing off with a "take care"...

11:22 A spokesperson for German premiere Angela Merkel has told a briefing that informal discussions will not begin before Britain invokes Article 50.

One thing is clear: before Britain has sent this request there will be no informal preliminary talks about the modalities of leaving.

11:18 Chris Bryant has told BBC News that he thinks Jeremy Corbyn may have voted to leave the EU. 

11:16 This probably wouldn't be the most absurd thing to happen since Friday, really.

11:09 Muddy? Sleep-deprived? Living in a tent amidst chaos? Just a sort of Defense training day, isn't it, Glastonbury? (Actually, Clive Lewis has completed a tour of Afghanistan: you can read about his military experience here.)

11:06 Running out of time to make cups of tea between these resignation letters now. Roberta Blackman-Woods has resigned from the front bench, saying that part of being Labour leader is to "connect with the public" and represent a range of opinions within the party.

11:04 George hears from one of his sources that Lisa Nandy will stand against Corbyn.

11:03 Here's Karin Smyth's letter to her constituents this morning. My favourite bit? She's not taught her spellchecker the word "Corbyn" in all this time.

11:00 Ruth Smeeth has joined the growing number of MPs who have resigned. (I've lost track of what number we're at: can someone tweet it at me?)

10:57 George reports that, as we said above, Watson's suggestion that Corbyn resign was "implicit at most".

10:54 The Press Association reports that the executive of the Conservative 1922 committee will meet today to discuss the rules and timetable for the party's leadership challenge. They are expected to use the same system that saw David Cameron elected in 2005

10:50 The BBC has revised its story on Tom Watson. The story is now more in line with what the majority of the lobby have been reporting: Watson has not explicitly called on Corbyn to resign, but has stressed the seriousness of his position and warned him he faces a concerted challenge to his leadership.

10:47 Diana Johnson, who resigned from her post in the Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Office this morning, has posted the full text of her resignation letter to Twitter. She calls Corbyn "a very principled and decent man", but says she does not believe he possesses "the vital leadership qualities we need at this crucial time".

10:43 The Times Red Box is now reporting that a growing number of Labour MPs are in "serious" discussions to consider the possibility of an SDP-style split. Hannah McGrath suggests that any breakaway group would need to muster over a hundred MPs to make a play at forming a new party.

10:41 The BBC is now reporting that Tom Watson has called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign.

10:38 Meanwhile, the resignations contginue: Alex Cunningham, Shadow Minister for the Natural Environment, tendered his this morning.

10:32 Boris Johnson has said that "Project Fear" is over. Nicola Sturgeon concurrs.

10:28 With the pound falling again this morning and the Governer of the Bank of England allocating £250,000,000,000 to prop up the currency, the BBC now reports that RBS and Barclays have both been suspended from trading after shares tanked more than 8%, triggering automatic "circuit breakers" designed to allow the value of the stock to be re-evaluated before automatic trading resumes. 

This is, as you may have guessed, concerning at best.

10:25 Fairly sure the front page of the Metro this morning is how every sleep-deprived political journalist in the country feels right now...

10:15 The BBC reports that Nia Griffith, Shadow Welsh Secretary, is meeting Corbyn to ask him to step down as Labour leader. Yesterday, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said he would "wait to see" how the situation develops before making a statement for or against Corbyn's leadership.

10:11 Emily Thornberry is on Sky, and is not coping well with the metaphors of the day.

10:01 Guardian political editor Anushka Asthana is reporting that a meeting has now taken place between Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn, but understands that Watson did not ask Corbyn to stand down (as some presumed would happen).

10:00 Stephanie here, briefly helming the liveblog so the politics desk can go outside and scream at the sky. Tips? Hyperventilating and need a chat? I'm on @stephanieboland

9:48: Funny how things work out. Most Labour peers are of that 1980s generation that didn't split off and form the SDP. Now they're a party within a party.

09:30: Following conversations with Labour peers, Labour's Chief Whip, Steve Bassam, and leader in the Lords, Angela Smith, will not attend shadow cabinet meetings while Corbyn is in post. 

9:19: Stephen here, helming the liveblog so Julia can get to work. Keep it here for the latest.

After a weekend of Brexit turmoil, we're expecting a little more leadership from senior politicians. But in the meantime, here's what happened over the weekend: 

- Eleven shadow cabinet ministers and four other shadow ministers have resigned, following the sacking over shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn. 

- Tom Watson has failed to back Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. Labour's deputy leader said that "we are heading for an early general election and the Labour Party must be ready to form a government". 

- The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the Scottish Parliament could veto the UK's withdrawal from the EU. 

- Boris Johnson has been sighted at his farmhouse in Oxfordshire, but so far we've heard no more detail from any of the leading members of the Leave campaign about their post-Brexit plans. The Chancellor, George Osborne, has also not been seen in public since Friday.

09:06 Stephen Bush has written that we're beginning to see what the Conservative hope for Brexit is, and it's grim. You can read his account of the deal that right-wing politicians might stomach here.

08:48 When will we next hear from Angela Eagle, the widely-respected Shadow Business minister? Interestingly, the Shadow cabinet wikipedia page describes her as serving from 2015-16. However, we haven't heard a peep from her on Twitter in the last 24 hours. We understand though that she's likely to stay...

08:41 Jeremy Corbyn has lived up to John McDonnell's pledge to replace the resigning ministers, and has appointed a new Shadow cabinet:

Shadow Foreign Secretary - Emily Thornberry
Shadow Health Secretary – Diane Abbott
Shadow Education Secretary – Pat Glass
Shadow Transport Secretary – Andy McDonald
Shadow Defence Secretary – Clive Lewis
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Rebecca Long-Bailey
Shadow International Development Secretary – Kate Osamor
Shadow Environment Food and Rural Affairs Secretary – Racheal Maskell
Shadow Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs – Cat Smith
Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary – Dave Anderson

08:33 Stephen Kinnock, assistant to Shadow Business minister Angela Eagle, has resigned and published his resignation letter on Twitter.

He writes:

"British politics will be completely dominated in the coming years by the Brexit negotiations, and I do not believe that you have the requisite skills or experience to ensure that there is a strong Labour voice at the negotiating table."


08:17 Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling is on Radio 4 Today and he makes the financial crisis sound like a piece of cake. 

He says it isn't clear what to do: "I'm more worried than I was in 2008.

"We cannot have a four month period in which nothing happens."

The world wants to know Britain's policy on the free movement of people, and how laws might change, he says. 

While Darling has been speaking, the FTSE 100 has recovered slightly, although it's still 0.33% down on Friday night. The FTSE 250, however, which is more indicative of the British domestic economy, is down 0.9%.

08:02 The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 have just opened, and both have immediately plummeted. 

Meanwhile, more on the resigning MPs.

Anna Turley is resigning as Shadow Minister for Civil Society. She writes

"This is a very hard letter to write. We have been friends for some years and as my former MP I hold you in very high regard as one of the kindest and most committed public servants in politics.

"However, I am sorry to say it has become clear beyond doubt to me that you and your team are not providing the strong, forward looking and competent leadership we need."

She says the "lacklustre referendum campaign" brought this home, but adds the leadership is not in touch with her local constituents.

In a blow to the Corbyn camp's claim that it has a mandate from members, Turley says:

"I have had a number of party members, and many many Labour voting members of the public, tell me this weekend that they do not have confidence in your leadership."

Here's a tweet from Diana Johnson:

07:50 More Labour MPs are resigning. 

Diana Johnson has resigned from her post as Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister. Anna Turley is resigning as Shadow Minister for Civil Society. And according to Radio 4 Today, two more junior ministers, Neil Coyle and Labour's housing and planning spokeswoman also plan to resign from positions of responsibility.

This brings the number of shadow ministers resigning to 15, although not all are full members of the cabinet.

07:45 The Labour MP Wes Streeting has been tweeting about something that has been gathering concern on social media over the weekend: racism against immigrants.

He tweets: "One of my Irish constituents told she should "go home" twice in two days. We must not become that kind of country."

Streeting was responding to reports that a black British councillor had been racially abused. Meanwhile, The Cambridge News reported messages demanding "no more Polish vermin" have been posted through doors in Huntingdon.

I don't want to spoil your breakfast by repeating all the racist bile that's being reported, but you can find some of the "worrying signs" being collected by concerned individuals in this group on Facebook.

07:39 Lucy Powell, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet yesterday, is talking on the BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. She says she is "not concerned" by the threat of deselection by trade unions or others. 

She says she hopes Jeremy Corbyn "does not drag this out longer than necessary".

07:37 Pundits seem divided on whether Osborne announced his "Punishment Budget" or not. He certainly struck a less apocalyptic tone than he did in the run up to the referendum, with plenty of lines about the strong economy, and the Bank of England's preparations.

On the other hand, he did just shift the burden of "action" over to whichever unlucky sod sits in the Treasury by autumn.

07:20 Osborne is speaking, 40 minutes before the markets open. He strikes a reassuring tone, but there are some worrying messages if you read through the lines. He also says he will address his role "within the future of the Conservative party" in the coming days. 

He says he has spoken to finance ministers of other major countries, chief executives of financial institutions and other central banks. The Bank of England and the Treasury have been contingency planning for weeks. The Bank of England has £250billion of funds to continue to support banks and the smooth functioning of markets. As he puts it: "The British economy is fundamentally strong, it is highly competitive and we are open foor business."

But, extending Cameron's nautical metaphor, he warns: "It will not be plain sailing."

Osborne is also cautioning against triggering Article 50 - the legal exit from the EU - too soon. He said:

"Only the UK can trigger article 50 and in my judgement we shouldd only do that when there is a clear view about what arrangement we want."

The Chancellor repeats many of his favourite phrases about the UK's strong economy and how he has fixed the "hole in the roof" during better economic times. But he adds:

"It is already evident that some firms are already pauing their decision to invest or hire people. This will have an impact on the economy and public finances. There will need to be action to handle that."

As with Cameron, he says this is a job for the new PM's Government, which could happen as late as the autumn. That leaves businesses several months of uncertainty. And he ends by making a plea against protectionism: 

"I do not want Britain to turn its back on Europe or the rest of the world."


07:10 No sign of Osborne yet. In the meantime, Boris Johnson has written an article that is basically a pitch for leadership - and presumably he collected a hefty fee for it too. He starts by dismissing the common view the EU referendum was about immigration:

"It is said that those who voted Leave were mainly driven by anxieties about immigration. I do not believe that is so. After meeting thousands of people in the course of the campaign, I can tell you that the number one issue was control – a sense that British democracy was being undermined by the EU system, and that we should restore to the people that vital power: to kick out their rulers at elections, and to choose new ones."

06:58 MONDAY: Morning, Julia here. We're expecting a statement from the Chancellor, George Osborne, who has been AWOL since the result on Friday. You can even play a game - Can You Find George Osborne?

It's crucial Osborne speaks, because the pound is still falling, and a snap poll from the Institute of Directors suggests one in three business leaders will cut investment in their business as a result. Two in three think the result is negative for their business and a quarter will put a freeze on recruitment.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said: "We can’t sugar-coat this, many of our members are feeling anxious. A majority of business leaders think the vote for Brexit is bad for them, and as a result plans for investment and hiring are being put on hold or scaled back.”

00:07 At the end of one of the most remarkable days in Labour's history, here's my extended take on where the party stands tonight. Julia will be back with more tomorrow morning, with at least 20 more frontbench resignations expected. George. 

22:38 The Mirror reports that John Spellar, a veteran of Labour's 1980s wars, could run as a "stalking horse" candidate against Corbyn. This would trigger a contest in which potential successors, such as Tom Watson and Angela Eagle, could then stand.  Barry Sheerman and Margaret Hodge have also been touted for the role. 

22:30 George here. It's notable that among the shadow cabinet members who haven't resigned are Angela Eagle and Jon Ashworth, a close ally of Tom Watson (and the only one not to have left). One theory is that both have remained in order to keep their seats on Labour's NEC, which would determine whether or not Corbyn makes the ballot automatically. 

21:57: Jeremy Corbyn has released a statement. And it seems pretty defiant. After commenting on the need to protect workers' rights and reflecting on economic inequality, he says:

“I was elected by hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics.
“I regret there have been resignations today from my shadow cabinet. But I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me – or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them.
“Those who want to change Labour’s leadership will have to stand in a democratic election, in which I will be a candidate.
“Over the next 24 hours I will reshape my shadow cabinet and announce a new leadership team to take forward Labour’s campaign for a fairer Britain - and to get the best deal with Europe for our people.”

He ain't going quietly.

21:41: From Bryant's resignation letter: 

"Last week changed everything. A major plank of Labour's longstanding economic and foreign policy was defeated in the referendum and we effectively handed the right in this country their biggest victory in a century.

"The Prime Minister must take the lion's share of the blame for that defeat and he has honourably resigned, but your inability to give a clear, unambiguous message to Labour voters significantly contributed to the result.

"You left many Labour voters uncertain as to our party's position. You made speeches that undermined the campaign to stay in the EU. You and John McDonnell regularly attacked the Remain campaign. Even on polling day there were people who thought you really wanted us to leave."

And then he sticks the knife in:

"Your ambivalent attitude in the campaign was a betrayal of the Labour Party and the wider Labour movement and it has let down a whole generation of young people who desperately hoped to hear a strong, cogent and inspiring pro-EU message from Labour."

21.20: Chris Bryant, Shadow leader of the House of Commons, has just announced his resignation from the Shadow Cabinet. He is the eleventh MP after Benn to resign, and the twelfth from the Shadow Cabinet altogether.

He called for someone new "to unite and lead Labour".

Bryant's resignation means roughly a third of the Shadow Cabinet has gone in 24 hours.

19:20 Announcing his resignation, Turner tweeted: "With a very heavy heart I have notified Jeremy Corbyn that I have resigned from the Shadow Cabinet. Letter to follow."

19:12 Helen here to say Karl Turner has resigned, following Lord Falconer. So we're up to 10 departures so far, plus Benn. 

18:34 On Watson's position, a source says that he wants "the leadership handed to him on a plate" with backing from grandees across the party. 

18:28 On the leadership, a Labour source tells me: "Don't rule out Yvette. Only grown-up candidate and I believe she wants it". The source emphasised the need to look beyond the task of "unifying the party" and towards that of EU negotiations. Cooper, he suggested, was best-qualified to lead at a moment of "national crisis". 

18:15 As I reported on Friday, many in Labour believe the party needs a "Michael Howard figure": an interim leader to see the party through an early general election. Watson and Angela Eagle, the shadow First Secretary of State and shadow business secretary, are the key contenders for that role. 

17:46 Charlie Falconer, the shadow justice secretary, has just become the ninth shadow cabinet member to resign. 

17:24 Having returned from Glastonbury (where he was partying at 4am this morning), Tom Watson has spoken. Labour's deputy leader, who wields his own mandate, said: "I was deeply disappointed to see Hilary Benn sacked in the early hours of this morning and equally saddened that so many talented, able and hard-working colleagues felt they had to leave the shadow cabinet.

"My single focus is to hold the Labour Party together in very turbulent times. The nation needs an effective opposition, particularly as the current leadership of the country is so lamentable. It's very clear to me that we are heading for an early general election and the Labour Party must be ready to form a government. There's much work to do. I will be meeting Jeremy Corbyn tomorrow morning to discuss the way forward."  

Though that's not a formal endorsement of the coup, it's far from a rejection. Watson's warning of an early election and the need to be "ready to form a government" is a clear signal that he doesn't believe Corbyn is up to the task. Nowhere does he defend his leadership or his mandate. When he sees Corbyn tomorrow morning, one assumes it will be to tell him that "the way forward" is for him to go. 

17:12 As Corbyn contemplates the struggle of forming a fresh shadow cabinet, Simon Danczuk, the Rochdale MP suspended from Labour last December, has cheekily offered his services. "Have phoned Jeremy & said if required, I'm prepared to serve. I am prepared to make that sacrifice for the Labour Party," he tweeted

16:49 Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker has become the eighth shadow cabinet member to resign. I reported that the Gedling was a "dead cert" to walk at 13:25. Coaker, formerly shadow defence secretary, is one of the strongest supporters of Trident renewal and would have resigned had unilateral disarmament become party policy. 

16:18 A Corbyn ally who has been in touch with the Labour leader tells me that he is "not wavering" and will seek to form a fresh shadow cabinet. 

16:03 George here again. I spoke earlier to Jon Trickett, one of just five shadow cabinet members to publicly back Corbyn. Here's what he told me: "The central task facing Britain is what kind of country we're going to have now that we've voted for Brexit. The central task facing the Labour Party is to offer a different vision for a different kind of Britain than the one that's going to be offered by the small-minded Little England, xenophobic group around Boris Johnson, Gove and Farage.

"The only way that Labour can do that is to be united and focus totally on doing that, presenting an alternative vision. All of this is a reckless distraction from our central task. It's time that people faced the facts: Jeremy is our leader, he has the overwhelming support of the party and we've got to get on with being an opposition and offer an alternative vision for the country." 

15.27 Helen here - I'm signing off as there hasn't been a resignation for at least 20 minutes. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to make sure you don't miss the latest updates.

15.14 On which note, Big Len has written a piece in the Guardian attacking the rebels. The Unite leader says: "Hilary Benn and others have decided this is the moment to let the Tories off the hook, turn Labour inwards and try to set aside the overwhelming result of a party leadership election held less than 10 months ago."

14.57 Worth remembering that the unions yesterday released a statement in support of Jeremy Corbyn. Unite's Len McCluskey is sticking to that today:

The second line is interesting, too - Tom Watson emerging in his wellies to back the leader would take the wind out of the plotters' sails. It would also come as a surprise to many MPs who assume he must have known what was about to happen. 

14:26 Stephen has written on what the plotters are thinking - and how they might have been emboldened the thought that Corbyn would need MPs' approval to get back on the ballot. 

What appears to have happened is that Iain McNicol, the party’s general secretary, has received legal advice that he should not put Corbyn on the ballot paper unless the parliamentary Labour party does so – advice that he is willing to put his job on the line to follow.  

14:20 Earlier, Channel 4's Michael Crick briefed that the Corbyn coup was being plotted in a group on Snapchat. As our younger readers will know, there's no such thing. (Presumably his source means WhatsApp, which lots of Labour MPs use for secure communications.) The happy side-effect is that I am now getting Snaps with jokes related to the shadow cabinet. Every day brings something new in this job, it truly does.

14:01 This tweet raised a wry smile. It's unprecedented to have the government and opposition in such turmoil at the same time. Never mind the fact we don't have any idea what kind of Brexit deal will be negotiated - will we be part of the EEA? Will we accept freedom of movement? When will we trigger Article 50 and start the process? David Cameron wants to wait for a leadership election, but will European leaders let him? Never mind Iain Duncan Smith saying one of the flagship pledges of the Leave campaign - that £350m a week which goes to the EU should instead go to the NHS - was more of a suggestion. Or Liam Fox saying that, actually, the new Tory leader - and prime minister - shouldn't be announced at Tory party conference, but instead there should be a beauty parade of candidates there. And that's before we've got to Nicola Sturgeon's declaration that a) she will seek a second Scottish independence referendum, and b) she could try to block Brexit. In times like this, Tim Farron is a beacon of hope and stability. Thank you Tim. 

13:58 Anyone trying to gauge the depth of this rebellion - you have my sympathies. The reason the lobby's collective ears pricked up when Seema Malhotra resigned is that she has been loyal to the leadership, and introduced Corbyn at his speech yesterday. 

13:56 Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Westminster North - and no one's idea of a "usual suspect" in terms of acting against a Labour leader - has tweeted her unhappiness with Corbyn:

13:52 Momentum, the group which grew out of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership campaign, is organising a demonstration in support of the Labour leader in front of parliament tomorrow at 6pm.

"The future is uncertain. After a Brexit vote we are in a time of national crisis, Cameron has resigned and we will likely have a general election with the potential of Britain lurching yet further to the right. A small number of Labour MPs are using this as an opportunity to oust Jeremy, disrespect the Labour membership who elected him and to disregard our movement for a new kind of politics.

We cannot let this undemocratic behaviour succeed. Join us at 6 pm outside Parliament tomorrow, Monday 27 June. The Parliamentary Labour Party will be meeting inside, so let's make sure they can hear us, the Labour Party members and voters outside. " 

13:50 Jeremy Corbyn has emerged from his house in north London, and got into a people carrier with his wife. Probably not off to visit a nice National Trust property, or pop to the garden centre. He didn't answer reporters' questions about whether he would resign. 

13:48 Kerry McCarthy has tweeted her resignaton letter, which says she "does not doubt your personal commitment to your longheld principles" but believes that "a new leader is needed". 

13:45 Seema Malhotra resigns. That makes seven. 

13:43 Helen here, back from tellygeddon on College Green at Westminster, allowing George to have lunch. The latest update is that Tom Watson was not on his expected train back from Glastonbury. 

13:25 A senior Labour MP tells me that Chris Bryant and Vernon Coaker are "dead certs" to resign from the shadow cabinet. That would make eight. 

13:22 It's notable that Powell and McCarthy, the two latest resignations, are both from the soft left of the party. THis will make it harder for Corbyn's allies to frame this as a "Blairte" revolt. 

13:16 I earlier reported (08:52) that Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones had joined the revolt. Welsh Labour have been in touch to say that this is not the case. Here's what he said: "Clearly it makes it very difficult if half the shadow cabinet team has resigned, then there’s a division in the shadow cabinet that would need to be healed. At the moment I've just heard the news and I don’t know what the circumstances are. We will have to wait to see how the situation develops throughout the day."

13:09 Shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy has become the sixth shadow cabinet member to resign. 

13:06 Andy Burnham has tweeted that he won't be joining the revolt. "At an uncertain time like this for our country, I cannot see how it makes sense for the Opposition to plunge itself into a civil war.

"I have never taken part in a coup against any Leader of the Labour Party and I am not going to start now. 

"It is for our members to decide who leads our Party & 10 months ago they gave Jeremy Corbyn a resounding mandate. I respect that & them."

12:59 And Powell has gone too. Her resignation letter can be read here

12:49 Shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood has become the fourth shadow cabinet member to resign. 

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell is expected to be next.

12:44 Sky News is reporting that Andy Burnham, who is running to be Labour's Manchester mayoral candidate, will not be among those resigning today. 

12:39 A Corbyn ally tells me that that there is "legal advice" stating that he would automatically make the ballot if challenged. He added: "He's not going to give in. He's a steady, steady individual beneath his reasonable gentleness. He's definitely going to be on the ballot paper, there's no question about it whatsoever." 

12:23 Julia writes: "Hilary Benn and John McDonnell appeared in quick succession this morning to debate Jeremy Corbyn's future as the leader of the Labour Party. But underpinning this is a wider debate about Labour's electoral strategy. Benn says he resigned as a matter of conscience because Corbyn is not a leader capable of winning an election. McDonnell, though, reminded listeners and any Labour rebels out there that it is only Corbyn that has succeeded in winning the loyalty of party members - that army of door knockers and campaign volunteers."

11:47 The hope among Labour MPs is that Corbyn will "do the decent thing" and resign if (or rather when) he loses the confidence vote due on Tuesday. They are convinced they will win a majority but believe that reports of "80 per cent support" are wide of the mark. 

11:40 Labour's only Scottish MP, Ian Murray, has just resigned as shadow Scotland secretary. As I noted earlier, this means the job will have to be done by a non-Scottish MP or a peer. 

11:21 Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray (see 09:11) and shadow transport secretary Lillian Greenwood are expected to be the next to resign. 

11:11 Shadow minister for young people Gloria De Piero has become the latest to resign. It's worth noting that De Piero is a close ally of Tom Watson (she's married to his aide James Robinson). Many will see this as a sign that the coup has the tacit approval of Watson (who is currently en route from Glastonbury). 

De Piero wrote in her resignation letter to Corbyn: "I have always enjoyed a warm personal relationship with you and I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve in your shadow cabinet. I accepted that invitation because I thought it was right to support you in your attempt to achieve the Labour victory the country so badly needs.

"I do not believe you can deliver that victory at a general election, which may take place in a matter of months. I have been contacted by many of my members this weekend and It is clear that a good number of them share that view and have lost faith in your leadership.”

10:58 Shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry has backed Corbyn, telling Michael Crick that "of course" she has confidence in his leadership. She is the fourth shadow cabinet minister to back Corbyn (along with McDonnell, Abbott and Trickett). 

10:52 Our Staggers editor Julia Rampen has written up Benn and McDonnell's TV appearances. 

"Two different visions for the Labour Party's future clashed today on primetime TV. Hours after being sacked from the shadow cabinet, Corbyn critic Hilary Benn was on the Andrew Marr Show ruling himself out of a leadership challenge. However, he issued a not-so-coded cry for revolt as he urged others to "do the right thing" for the party. Moments later, shadowhancellor John McDonnell sought to quell rumours of a coup by telling Andrew Neil Jeremy was "not going anywhere". He reminded any shadow ministers watching of the grassroots support Labour has enjoyed under Corbyn and the public petition urging them to back their leader."

10:46 Asked to comment, Tony Blair told the BBC: "I think this is for the PLP. I don't think it's right for me or helpful to intervene." 

10:38 On the leadership, it's worth noting that while Corbyn would need 50 MP/MEP nominations to make the ballot (were he not on automatically), an alternative left-wing candidate would only need 37 (15 per cent of the total). 

10:27 Jon Trickett, one of just three shadow cabinet Corbynites, has tweeted: "200,000 people already signed the petition in solidarity with the leadership. I stand with our party membership." 

10:14 McDonnell has told the BBC's Andrew Neil: "I will never stand for the leadership of the Labour Party". He confirmed that this would remain the case if Corbyn resigned. McDonnell, who stood unsuccessfully for the Labour leadership in 2007 and 2010 (failing to make the ballot), added that if Corbyn was forced to fitght another election he would "chair his campaign".  

10:12 Tom Watson is returning from Glastonbury to London. He's been spotted at Castle Cary train station. 

10:07 A spokesman for John McDonnell has told me that it's "not true" that Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, is canvassing MPs on his behalf. Labour figures have long believed that the shadow chancellor and former Labour leadership contender has ambitions to succeed Corbyn. 

09:51 Appearing on the Marr Show, Hilary Benn has just announced that he will not stand for the Labour leadership. "I am not going to be a candidate for leader of the Labour Party." Tom Watson, Angela Eagle and Dan Jarvis are those most commonly cited by Corbyn's opponents as alternative leaders. 

09:46 Should Corbyn refuse to resign, Labour MPs are considering electing an independent PLP leader, an option first floated by Joe Haines, Harold Wilson's former press secretary, in the New Statesman. He argued that as the representatives of the party's 9.35 million voters, their mandate trumped Corbyn's.

09:38 Here's Stephen on the issue of whether Corbyn could form a shadow cabinet after the revolt. "A lot of chatter about whether Corbyn could replace 10 of his shadow cabinet. He couldn't, but a real question of whether he'd need to. Could get by with a frontbench of 18 to 20. There's no particular need to man-mark the government - Corbyn has already created a series of jobs without shadows, like Gloria De Piero's shadow minister for young people and voter registration. That might, in many ways, be more stable." 

09:32 Despite the revolt, there is no sign of Corbyn backing down. A spokesman said: "There will be no resignation from the elected leader of the party with a strong mandate".

09:11 Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray is one of those expected to resign. As Labour's only Scottish MP, the post would have to be filled by an MP south of the border or a peer. 

09:01 Diane Abbott, Corbyn's long-standing ally, has been promised the post of shadow foreign secretary, a Labour source has told me. 

The shadow international developmnent secretary is one of just three Corbyn supporters in the shadow cabinet (along with John McDonnell and Jon Trickett). Though 36 MPs nominated him for the leadership, only 14 current members went on to vote for him. It is this that explains why Corbyn is fighting the rebellion. He never had his MPs' support to begin with and is confident he retains the support of party activists (as all polls have suggested). 

But the weakness of his standing among the PLP means some hope he could yet be kept off the ballot in any new contest. Under Labour's rules, 50 MP/MEP nominations (20 per cent of the total) are required. 

08:52 Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has joined the revolt, telling BBC Radio Wales that events make it "very difficult" for Corbyn to lead Labour into the next election. 

08:50 Tom Watson, a pivotal figure who Labour MPs have long believed could determine the success of any coup attempt is currently at Glastonbury. 

08:26 Following Hilary Benn's 1am sacking, Jeremy Corbyn will face shadow cabinet resignations this morning. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has become the first to depart.

The New Statesman will cover all the latest developments here. John McDonnell, Corbyn's closest ally, is appearing on The Andrew Marr Show at 9:45.

"This is the trigger. Jeremy's called our bluff," a shadow cabinet minister told me. He added that he expected to joined by a "significant number" of colleagues. The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg has reported that half of the 30 will resign this morning. 

Corbyn is set to face a vote of no confidence from Labour MPs on Tuesday followed by a leadership challenge. But his allies say he will not resign and are confident that he will make the ballot either automatically (as legal advice has suggested) or by winning the requisite 50 MP/MEP nominations.