The Times are today reporting that there is growing pressure within the party for Liz Kendall to drop out of the Labour leadership election.
Labour MPs who backed veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn originally in the interest of having a “wide debate” about the party’s future have become increasingly anxious in recent days after mounting speculation that the Islington MP could in fact become the next leader of the Labour Party.
The Telegraph yesterday reported that half of the MPs who nominated Mr Corbyn were now switching their preferences to other candidates in response to the socialist candidate’s unexpected popularity.
A Times/YouGov poll of Labour members on Tuesday night had Corbyn taking a 17-point lead in first preferences before defeating Andy Burnham in the final round. This has led to reported calls from within the party for Kendall, who finished fourth in the poll, to drop out of the race in order to stop Mr Corbyn. But the Leicester West MP’s campaign are adamant she will continue to fight for the leadership.
A spokesperson for her campaign said: “It’s not going to happen. Why should the one person who is putting forward the right message for Labour’s future pull out? Liz Kendall’s argument that the party must change to win in 2020 is essential in this contest.”
A campaign source also described the idea of Kendall dropping out as “nonsense” and stressed the point that “in a preference vote, it doesn’t matter how many candidates there are.”
Yvette Cooper this morning also argued that Kendall should not drop out of the race, telling the BBC’s Today programme that the Shadow Public Health Minister shouldn’t “drop out and leave it to the boys, just because of one poll”.
Kendall herself spoke out today and told the BBC that she had no intention of dropping out of the race to be her party’s next leader.
She said: “You never stop fighting for what you believe in. I will be fighting for what I believe in until the very end.“ I don’t think that sticking to the kind of comfort zone that saw us lose the last two elections is right and neither do I want to see the party I love turn into, you know, a party of protest, because then we will be in the wilderness for generations.
"I have an alternative argument to make that will help Labour win so we can change the country for the better. I will carry on making that till the last moment.”
Former Labour Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott however told panicking MPs to “calm down” and denied that Mr Corbyn getting elected would be “a disaster” for the party. He also furiously defended the left-wing candidate against what he described as the “totally unacceptable abuse” from former Labour leader Tony Blair in his speech yesterday.
Lord Prescott praised the Islington MP, saying on the BBC’s Today programme that his campaign success so far could be attributed to the fact that “people know where he stands.” He also managed to forget Ms Kendall’s name, referring to her only as “the candidate on the right.” The former MP for Hull East had previously damned Kendall as “a researcher”.
Current Labour MPs were also quick to have their say. On Twitter, Shadow Treasury Minister Alison McGovern pointed out that no voters have been cast yet that and said that there has been “no trend, just an absence of data. And a torrent of words.”