Jeremy Corbyn will face a vote of no confidence in his leadership on Tuesday after a motion was put forward at a meeting of angry Labour MPs where he faced repeated calls to resign.
At a packed meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, Corbyn faced down critics by unveiling a list of new shadow cabinet members and insisting he planned to lead Labour into the next general election.
After losing 20 members of his shadow cabinet and a series of other frontbenchers in a dramatic coup attempt that began over the weekend, Corbyn was barraged at the meeting in scenes described by one MP as “going wild”.
Another frontbencher – the shadow justice minister, Andy Slaughter – announced his resignation early on Tuesday. In a letter, Slaughter cited a consultation with his local party and other members in his constituency of Hammersmith.
There is a sense among MPs that the membership may be turning. In parliament, there were discussions among politicians about how the number of Corbyn-supporting members in their constituencies had dropped – but there is still a feeling that he’d be difficult to beat given the mobilising ability of Momentum.
Corbyn named his new shadow cabinet members, including Barry Gardiner at energy, Richard Burgon at justice and Debbie Abrahams at work and pensions, before refusing to make way for a new leader.
But he was confronted by MPs including Chris Bryant, Yvette Cooper and Jess Phillips begging him to reconsider his position before a general election that could take place this year after David Cameron’s decision to resign as prime minister.
One MP described the mood as despairing. Some were upset that thousands of Corbyn supporters gathered by the grassroots movement Momentum were protesting in Parliament Square chanting “Blairites out” throughout the meeting. There were claims that the crowd were waving Socialist Workers party flags rather than Labour ones.
Ian Murray, the former shadow Scotland secretary, asked his leader to “call off the dogs” after facing protests outside his constituency office following his decision to resign from Labour’s frontbench at the weekend.
“Momentum are people you and your office control,” he said, to shouts from others of “They’re outside”.
Jess Phillips MP said she had faced antisemitic abuse since stepping down, tweeting a Momentum email that accused her of being bought by “Zionist money”.
Others on the soft left of the party, including Helen Goodman and Clive Efford, also spoke against the leader, while Chris Matheson was cheered for telling Corbyn: “I’ve done something you’ve never done, won a seat off the Tories.”
One MP who tried to defend Corbyn was booed, in a febrile session that ended with Angela Eagle, who had resigned as shadow business secretary, visibly upset.
Labour rebels are hoping to settle around one candidate to take on Corbyn, with Tom Watson or Angela Eagle most likely to be selected.
Corbyn remained defiant even in the face of resignations during the day from previously loyal members of his team on the left of the party, including Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary, Owen Smith, the shadow work and pensions secretary, and Lisa Nandy, the shadow energy secretary.
Eagle had requested a meeting with Corbyn but had not heard back and so offered her resignation over the phone on Monday morning. Her sister, Maria Eagle, the shadow culture secretary, also went.
Angela Eagle told reporters outside parliament: “I’ve made it clear that I don’t think it’s working, and Jeremy needs to think about his position.”
A Labour spokesman said Corbyn was intent on staying until the general election, and the remaining vacant shadow cabinet positions would be filled. “The people who elect the leader of the Labour party are the members of the Labour party and Jeremy has made that crystal clear. He’s not going to concede to a corridor coup or backroom deal which tries to flush him out,” he said.
“He was elected by an overwhelming majority of the Labour party. He is not going to betray those people and stand down because of pressure.”
The spokesman said the only way to challenge Corbyn would be for another MP to collect nominations and trigger a contest. “All the resignations are a sideshow. If people have confidence they can win a leadership election, they can mount that challenge. If they are avoiding that, maybe they don’t have that confidence.”
Politicians rebelling against the leader are trying to coalesce around one candidate so that if Corbyn is back on the ballot there is a better chance of beating him.
Rumours about Lisa Nandy were killed by her saying publicly that she would not run. Sources suggested that Angela Eagle or Tom Watson were the most likely unity candidates, with some mentioning Dan Jarvis as a possible future leader.
It is believed that MPs are attempting to poll members to try to understand who would be seen most favourably.
And there will also be an attempt to stop Corbyn standing again, with a legal battle pending as two pieces of advice from lawyers have drawn opposite conclusions about whether the standing leader needs to secure MP nominations in the face of a challenge.
Given Corbyn’s refusal to resign a direct leadership is likely to be the only way to proceed with the attempted coup and could come this week.
Afterwards, Corbyn headed out of parliament to address the crowd of supporters, promising to fight on to represent their movement.
The Labour leader was flanked on stage by his new shadow health secretary, Diane Abbott, and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who told the crowd that the team was going nowhere. Speaking of a “handful of MPs”, McDonnell said it was “open to them to seek another election”.
“But let me make it clear: if there is another leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn will be standing again and I will be supporting him. This is not about any individual, this is about democracy of the movement,” he said, to chants of “Corbyn, Corbyn, Corbyn”.
McDonnell criticised his colleagues’ comments about the demonstrations, arguing that while “some call it mob rule”, he believed “people have the right to peaceful protest”.
Phillips said the move would further anger MPs who had been described as “Blairite scum” by some of those protesting.
John Woodcock, an MP who has been hostile to Corbyn’s leadership, confronted the leader’s spokesman, Kevin Slocombe, outside the PLP meeting, accusing him of giving journalists a distorted account of what had happened.
Earlier Corbyn was attacked on his position in the EU referendum, with Chris Bryant claiming Corbyn had voted for Brexit. A member of the public came forward on Monday to say the Labour leader had told him he was voting to leave the EU, telling the Guardian they had a conversation in a Waterloo tapas restaurant on Friday 10 June.
Corbyn’s team are adamant that he voted to remain, pointing to his tweet saying so. But the leader has been criticised for his campaign efforts. The chair of Labour In for Britain, Alan Johnson, emailed colleagues to thank several people involved in the campaign, notably missing Corbyn off the list.
“At times it felt as if they were working against the rest of the party and had conflicting objectives,” said Johnson, who repeated his claims at the PLP meeting, to cheers.
Emails leaked to the Guardian reveal that staff in both Corbyn and McDonnell’s offices removed sentences from statements and speeches that had been suggested by the remain campaign and workers in Labour’s headquarters.
In one chain of emails referring to the publication of a Treasury report, McDonnell was repeatedly pressed to make his statement more clearly about the EU referendum.
The final wording included a reference to the impact of a Tory Brexit, but removed the words “Labour will continue to campaign for Britain to remain in Europe to protect jobs, growth, trade, investment and working people”, which had been suggested by the party’s central press office.
In a separate piece of correspondence, Corbyn’s team edited the sentence “I am clear just like my shadow cabinet, the trade union movement and our members, that it is in the interests of the people of this country to remain in the European Union”, to take out any personal reference.
They also changed “We have just nine days to go and I will be working night and day to convince Labour supporters to vote remain” to “We have just nine days to convince Labour supporters to vote remain”.
Both teams have strongly denied that they did anything other than try to win the referendum.