Several MPs loyal to the leader admitted they were ashamed to vote Labour at last month’s disastrous European elections which saw the Liberal Democrats beat them into third place and demanded a change of direction for the party. Simmering tensions boiled over at a private parliamentary Labour party (PLP) last night which one insider described as Mr Corbyn’s “worst meeting in his time as leader”. The source said: “He did not even seem to acknowledge there were difficulties, from Brexit, to sexual harassment, to antisemitism.”
There is growing anger within the parliamentary party about how the leader’s office handled harassment complaints against two senior Labour figures and the investigation into Labour antisemitism by the equalities watchdog.
Mr Corbyn tried to reassure MPs over Brexit by insisting the party would back a referendum on any deal passed by parliament and said the issue would be discussed by the shadow cabinet but still faced fierce criticism.
Corbyn supporter Marie Rimmer told him: “People who worked with you for years are turning away from us.
“It wasn’t easy for me to vote Labour in the EU elections. The leadership is not there on Brexit policy.”
The insider said: “She eviscerated him. No one was expecting her to speak out like that.”
Another MP said: “It was one of the best speeches I have ever heard in here – it clearly came from the heart.”
Another said: “It got genuinely nasty. It was up there with the very worst.
“You saw the depth of unhappiness within the PLP. Some of the people speaking out, you just never would have expected to hear it from.
“The problem for Jeremy was the attacks were on multiple fronts — and I think most in there thought it was basically on the money. No one really spoke up for him. It was bad on every front.”
One Corbyn ally said the leadership had been taken aback by the tone of the criticism but another source called the meeting “robust” but “no worse” than previous meetings.
He said: “Clearly, there are very strong feelings about Brexit and how it should be handled, both in the Labour party and the country – and among Labour MPs. That’s no secret at all.
“We are in a period of heightened polarisation on Brexit, and that is why Jeremy is trying to find a way that reflects our conference policy and that brings the country together.
“We are listening to the views of members and our MPs. The PLP is very passionate, and that’s what we would expect.”
The Labour leadership also came under fire for its handling of two harassment complaints and its apparent failure to even mention and investigation into anti-semitism launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Former Corbyn aide James Mills tweeted: “I’ve always thought we should scrap these meetings.
“They are not productive for anyone involved. And are now just a session for people to vent their fury in front of journalists.”
Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet meets today with the leader expected to come under yet more pressure to make a second referendum official Labour policy.