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Rebecca Reilly-Cooper on Naomi Wolf: How the beautiful are damned

Naomi Wolf's anger is animated by the question: how much more could talented, ambitious women achieve, if they could only free themselves from the chains of beauty?

This piece is part of the New Statesman's "Rereading the Second Wave" series. Read the other essays here.

 

Does The Beauty Myth count as a work of the feminist Second Wave? It was published in 1991, at the tail-end of what is generally regarded as the Second Wave; in the same year, Susan Faludi's Backlash was published, detailing the revolt against the gains made by Second Wave activism that was already well underway by the 1980s.

But if we understand the Second Wave not just in chronological terms, but also by in terms of the methods employed and the issues addressed, then it makes sense to see The Beauty Myth as a work of Second Wave feminism. It is clear from Naomi Wolf's writing that she considers the book to be a continuation of the themes of the Second Wave, and as a direct descendant of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. The beauty myth arose to fill the vacuum left after the Second Wave had chipped away at the foundations of traditional forms of patriarchal control, and the main pillars of the feminine mystique crumbled.

Wolf argues that in the decades since Friedan's work was released, feminists had had some successes in exposing as fictions many of the noble lies that had functioned to maintain the patriarchal social order. Ideas about women's inherent biological frailty and anaesthetic sexuality, about the nature of women's work and about children's absolute dependence on the mother - ideas that had been presented as self-evidently true and determined by nature - were dismantled.

As a result, women became visible in the public sphere and vocal in their demands: for equal opportunities to jobs and positions of power, for equal pay and an equal share of the burdens of domestic labour, for satisfying sex and egalitarian relationships. And in response, the one remaining pillar propping up the façade of women's natural inferiority and subordinate value was strengthened and reinforced. That pillar was the beauty myth - a rigid set of norms and rules about women's physical appearance, presented as natural, obligatory, and the sole path to power, status, wealth, and love. In prose that simmers and bubbles with righteous fury, Wolf examines the many forms the ideology of beauty takes, and the myriad ways in which it operates to curtail women's hard-won freedom and equality.

In the sphere of work, women's competence is frequently assessed by their success in adhering to norms governing beauty, and their physical appearance is used to justify both discrimination and harassment. In popular culture, only those women who are considered sufficiently beautiful are permitted to be publicly visible, so the images we see and the narratives we hear are of those who conform to the socially prescribed ideal of perfection. The aesthetic ideals and values of pornography seep into mainstream culture and advertising, presenting an alienating and restrictive view of women's sexuality that is tied to its rigid and limited vision of beauty. As the myth flourishes, so its depictions of ideal of beauty become more extreme and its requirements more rigorous. Its demands are presented as having near-divine authority, providing the only path to salvation for the flawed, fallen female. Women learn that no matter how successful they are, whatever else they accomplish, they must above all be young, beautiful and thin. The rational response to such imperatives is for women to purchase expensive but ineffective lotions and potions, to submit to constant hunger, and to undergo invasive, painful and dangerous procedures in pursuit of this ideal - because the alternative is lack of status, lack of wealth, lack of sexual fulfilment, lack of love. To be not beautiful is to be not visible, and to be not visible is to have one's needs and desires unacknowledged and unnourished.

The Beauty Myth was one of the first feminist books I ever read, and at the time it had a huge impact on me, playing a significant role in my feminist awakening. In retrospect, the reasons for this are obvious. As a privileged, ambitious young woman, it was with respect to the requirements of beauty that I most keenly felt the injustices wreaked by gender. I was fortunate in nearly every way in which a young woman could hope to be - white, middle-class and relatively affluent, I had never known any of the serious hardships that form the substance of so many women's daily lives. I was reasonably intelligent, came from a nurturing and supportive family, and was raised with the expectation that I could achieve whatever I desired, that there should be no limits on my aspirations.

And yet, despite all of this good fortune, I wasn't as happy as I should have been. I wasn't as confident as I should have been. And this was almost entirely down to the fact that I didn't believe I was thin enough, and therefore knew I wasn't beautiful enough. It didn't matter to me that I was smart, healthy, well-off, and privileged across pretty much every dimension. I wasn't thin, so I wasn't beautiful, so I was filled with self-disgust and self-loathing, and paralysed by the lack of self-confidence that so often plagues women when the world is telling them they are taking up too much space. Reading The Beauty Myth at the age of twenty brought immediate consolation. I wasn't alone. I wasn't crazy. I wasn't unusually weak-minded or weak-bodied. My feelings weren't deviant or pathological. They were a normal - and rational - response to the reality of living as a woman under an oppressive set of beauty requirements. The relief was immense.

Twenty-three years since its publication, is there still any reason for feminists to read The Beauty Myth? Re-reading it now, I think we can answer that question with a resounding 'yes'. There is much in the book that leaps out at the contemporary reader as true and relevant, even startlingly prescient, given what we now know about how the beauty industry has developed since it was written. There has been little to hearten the feminist in the sphere of beauty since the book was published, and so many of the trends that Wolf identifies have not only persisted, but accelerated, in the intervening years. The cosmetic surgery industry is now worth £2.3 billion a year in the UK alone, and as Wolf predicted, ever more extreme procedures are being dreamt up and marketed as cures for deformities we previously didn't know we had. In 1991, could even Wolf have imagined that within twenty years, buttock implants and labiaplasty would be offered to healthy women? Or that women could have their faces injected with chemical fillers in salons on the high street during their lunch hours? The ritual shaming and public humiliation for the purposes of entertainment of women deemed insufficiently attractive has reached new heights in television programmes such as Ten Years Younger or The Swan. Popular culture has developed an entirely new lexicon with which to pathologise the normal variation found in healthy women's bodies: in the 1990s, we were content to lambast women for their wobbly tummies and fleshy thighs; to this we have added muffin tops, bingo wings and cankles as new sources of self-loathing and social opprobrium.

The women's magazines, singled out by Wolf for particularly vociferous criticism, have made their attacks on women's bodies even more openly hostile and explicit, circling the cellulite and magnifying the stretch marks, just in case you missed them. The growth of digital technology and proliferation of new forms of media means that images of beauty and glamour, as well as pornography, are becoming ever more ubiquitous, while the faces of women who don't fit the beauty mold are disappearing from view, being forcibly retired and replaced by faces with fewer lines. As in 1991, so now, women are spending ever more of their time and resources striving to meet the increasingly exacting ideals of the beauty myth, and exercising a rigorous discipline on their bodies, trying to starve and beat them into submission. But despite all this effort and expenditure, women aren't getting any happier or more comfortable with their bodies, in large part because the goalposts keep shifting - or shrinking. The ideals of the beauty myth aren't intended to be realisable. They are designed to keep women in a state of perpetual anxiety, engaged in constant warfare with their recalcitrant flesh.

Given all of this, it would be easy to conclude that the beauty myth has won the day. The ideals of beauty have proliferated, and women seem ever more willing to comply with their dictates. Even among feminists, there is a suggestion now that to talk critically about beauty and appearance is a bit unfashionable and outdated.  One reason for this is that these are, to a large extent, the concerns of the privileged. If the biggest difficulty you face as a woman is the social pressure to conform to a restrictive ideal of beauty - rather than, say, worrying about how you're going to feed and care for your children, or protect yourself from partner violence - then you are pretty privileged.

Wolf is often explicit that she is primarily talking about middle-class, high-achieving women, who are failing to realise their full potential and to make the most of the liberation the Second Wave promised to deliver. Her anger is animated by the question: how much more could these talented, ambitious women achieve, if they could only free themselves from the chains of beauty? When so many women are struggling with the much more urgent, fundamental problems of just keeping themselves and their children safe and well, contemporary feminists might be inclined to dismiss beauty as a trivial matter, and look upon works such as The Beauty Myth with annoyance, even faint embarrassment. And not only does Wolf have nothing to say about how these exacting beauty norms are experienced by those who cannot afford to comply with them, there is also very little discussion about the inherently white, Anglo-American/European nature of our standard beliefs about beauty, and the impact of this on women of colour. How much more painful must the beauty myth be for those women for whom it is even more out of reach, and requires even more alienation from their bodies and identities, than for the white middle-class women Wolf has in mind?

These are valid and important points, and feminism should certainly address these issues. But it is not a very compelling criticism of The Beauty Myth to point out that the book isn't about everything, that there are other feminist concerns that it does not touch on. The book would undoubtedly be enhanced by a more in-depth discussion of the damaging effects on women of colour of the fact that white beauty norms are presented as neutral and universal; although, as a white Jewish woman, Wolf may have felt not best placed to explore those questions at length. Feminists of colour have written extensively about the 'whitewashing' of fashion magazines and the beauty industry, and continuing this analysis is an essential part of deepening and strengthening a feminist critique of the beauty myth. But while it might be correct to say that a preoccupation with issues of appearance is often indicative of a certain amount of privilege, we shouldn't conclude that it's therefore a problem not worthy of feminist concern. Feminism is a vibrant, pluralistic movement, made up of diverse women working towards a variety of goals. And we are all of us capable of caring about several things at once - we can want male violence against women to be eradicated, want childcare to be made more accessible and affordable, and want women to be freed from the shackles of an oppressive beauty regime. Despite their seeming triviality, appearance and beauty norms are a legitimate feminist concern because they make women worse off - physically, emotionally, financially - than equivalently situated men.

The Beauty Myth is an impassioned polemic, and in many places the analysis is irritatingly vague, with rigour giving way to rhetoric. As was widely noted at the time of its publication, many of the statistics offered seem dubious at best, so this is not the place to come for an accurate repository of data about cosmetic surgery or eating disorders. More frustrating for me is the lack of any kind of detailed or sustained engagement with important ideas surrounding choice and blame. Wolf is clear that individual women are not to be blamed for the decisions they make in order to survive in a society that judges their worth by their beauty. There is an essential point here that is often lost in much third-wave feminist discourse, which has unfortunately absorbed a neo-liberal distaste for being seen to express judgment of individual choices. Criticising the existence of a practice or institution, whether that's the monogamous nuclear family, pornography, or high-heeled shoes, is not to criticise or assign blame to the woman who chooses to participate in these practices. Every woman makes compromises every day to cope, and to try to flourish as best she can, under the restrictive conditions the existing social structure presents. Perhaps she gets pleasure and enjoyment from these things. She should not be castigated for doing so, and this is something that Wolf is careful to emphasise. But this does not mean that her choices are feminist choices, just because she chose them, or that because her participation brings her enjoyment, the practice itself is beyond feminist critique. Nor does the fact that a woman would make a particular choice against the backdrop of the beauty myth necessarily mean that we best respect her autonomy by protecting that choice.

What is needed here is a rigorous and sustained engagement with these questions: what conditions would need to be met, for a woman's choice to undergo cosmetic surgery to reflect her autonomous will, rather than a coerced response when faced with unappealing alternatives? When might we be justified in interfering to prevent a woman from making a choice that will be harmful to her, if that choice is shaped by oppressive gender norms? And what should the feminist who recognises the pernicious nature of the beauty myth, but also wants to survive living under it intact, decide to do? While Wolf shows an awareness of the importance of all these questions, she gives us little guidance about how to answer them.

Wolf's diagnosis of a contemporary social malady strikes the reader as just as true and relevant as it was twenty-three years ago. Women's potential is constrained and their self-realisation fettered by this new form of mystique, that makes being beautiful above all else a moral imperative, and imposes heavy social sanctions on those who will not or cannot comply. Fittingly, one solution Wolf calls for is intergenerational collaboration - to restore the links between younger and older women, and provide a new generation of women with role models and mentors. One of the successes of the beauty backlash has been to pit women against one another, and to encourage women of different generations to view one another as a threat. We have to resist that move, and recognise that as young feminists, we have much to learn from our foremothers. In Wolf's words:

It would be stupid and sad if the women of the near future had to fight the same old battles all over again from the beginning just because of young women's isolation from older women. It would be pathetic if young women had to go back to the beginning because we were taken in by an unoriginal twenty-year campaign to portray the women's movement as "not sexy", a campaign aimed to help young women forget whose battles made sex sexy in the first place.

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper is a lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Warwick. She tweets as @boodleoops.

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Live blog: Jeremy Corbyn hit by shadow cabinet revolt

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

Hello, and welcome to the New Statesman live blog. Please hit refresh for updates.

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 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.