Major unions pledge their support to Jeremy Corbyn as a leadership challenge looms

With Angela Eagle expected to challenge the Labour leader imminently, Len McClusky and other union representatives have declared their support for Corbyn.

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Len McClusky and the general secretaries of unions Unison and the GMB have come out in support of Jeremy Corbyn after news that "peace talks" had broken down, and a formal leadership challenge could be expected imminently.

McClusky called Tom Watson's statement earlier today, in which the deputy leader said he believed there "is little to be achieved by pursuing wider conversations with our union affiliates at this time", "deeply disigengenuous".

According to New Statesman political editor George Eaton, Unison and the GMB then followed suit, pledging their support to Corbyn at today's Durham Miner's Gala.

Union support could be crucial in deciding whether or not Corbyn has an automatic place on the leadership ballot in the event of a challenge. The party is believed to have conflicting legal advice on the subject, with the final decision likely to be taken by Labour's NEC, of which several seats are occupied by trade union representatives.

Read McClusky's full statement below.

“I am dismayed at the statement issued by Tom Watson announcing his withdrawal from talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the Labour party

“Extraordinarily, I received no notice of this statement before it was issued. I had made arrangements for a meeting of trade union leaders, Tom Watson and representatives of the PLP and the party leader for tomorrow, arrangements requested by Tom Watson and his colleagues, specifically for Mr Watson’s convenience.

“In that context, when the possibility of a workable plan had never seemed closer, Tom Watson’s actions today can only look like an act of sabotage fraught with peril for the future of the Labour party.”

“I must clarify one point in Tom Watson’s statement – I made it absolutely clear from the outset of these discussions that Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as the leader was not on the agenda.

“Watson knew that, and it is entirely wrong to suggest that any public statement by Jeremy represented any change in the situation. This is a deeply disingenuous manoeuvre.

“I will continue to work with trade union colleagues and others to chart a way forward, including meeting the legitimate concerns of Labour MPs.

“Should there have to be a leadership election, I must warn that any attempts to keep Jeremy Corbyn, elected just 10 months ago with an enormous mandate, off the ballot paper by legal means risks a lasting division in the party.

“It is time for everyone to commit to a democratic and dignified procedure as the only way to avert such a disaster for working people.” 

Stephanie Boland is head of digital at Prospect. She tweets at @stephanieboland.