JEREMY Corbyn was humiliated and weakened when a secret plot to topple his deputy in a “drive-by shooting” was foiled.
The Labour leader’s chief cheerleader staged a lightning bid to have Tom Watson removed by abolishing his shadow cabinet post.
Corbyn was humiliated and weakened when a secret plot to topple his deputy was foiled[/caption]
But the coup misfired after the dirty deed was rumbled – and stopped in its tracks by outraged MPs.
The botched attempt to remove one of Mr Corbyn’s most vocal and powerful critics overshadowed the opening of the Labour conference in Brighton last night.
Mr Watson, 52, last night accused his opponents of launching a “straightforward sectarian attack” to silence Mr Corbyn’s critics.
The former defence minister was tucking into dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Manchester when he was tipped off about the putsche 260 miles away on the south coast.
‘THIS SHOULDN’T HAPPEN IN BRITAIN’
He said: “I got a message that they were voting to abolish me.
“If people want to remove me, let the members remove me, rather than having a secret paper at a meeting at the last minute.
“These kinds of things happen in Venezuela.They shouldn’t happen in the United Kingdom.”
He added: “If we are serious about changing the political nature of Britain then let’s focus on that this week rather than what seems like a drive-by shooting of someone you disagree with on an issue of the day.”
In a drastic move, Jon Lansman, boss of the Corbynista fan club Momentum, submitted a motion to Labour’s ruling national executive calling for the position of deputy leader to be axed.
But Mr Corbyn was forced to step in and halt the vote after an outcry from senior MPs, including three former party leaders.
Former PM Tony Blair, who once survived a “curry house plot” to remove him from Number 10 by Mr Watson, put aside his past grievance to attack the move as “undemocratic, damaging and politically dangerous”.
Gordon Brown also intervened, along with Mr Corbyn’s predecessor Ed Miliband, who declared: “Those who came up with the idea for the eve of Labour Conference have taken leave of their senses.
”It triggered a major backlash among Labour’s moderate wing, who said it was crazy to be launching internal warfare when the party could face a general election within seven weeks.”
John Cryer, leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said: “We should be focusing on winning the next election and coming to the help of the
millions who have been under attack for nine years, not starting another monumental internal row by attempting to get rid of the post of deputy leader – who is elected by members not the NEC.”
Former leader Ed Miliband said those responsible had ‘taken leave of their senses’.
He said: ‘The move to abolish the deputy leader post without warning or debate is undemocratic, wrong and should not happen.
‘Those who came up with the idea for the eve of Labour conference have taken leave of their senses.’
Mr Corbyn stepped in at the last minute to stop the vote after a growing outcry from his MPs.
He insisted he had been kept in the dark about the plot – raising fresh questions about his ability to control his closest lieutenants.
But he ordered a review of the position of deputy leader – giving his Marxist mouthpieces a second chance to remove Mr Watson in the coming months.
Lefties are furious with Mr Watson over his constant criticism of Mr Corbyn’s leadership style – and his failure to take a firm stance over Brexit.
Ex-minister Yvette Cooper said: “This is completely mad and incredibly destructive. The country faces serious challenges and a General Election could be imminent. Conference should be about the country and pulling together. Instead we get this.”
Former Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw said the attempt to “purge” Mr Watson was “totally f***ing insane”.
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Tottenham MP David Lammy added: “Tribal infighting in the middle of a Boris Johnson-inspired national emergency makes me want to weep.
“My constituents and millions of others across the country desperately need the Labour party united right now. The Tories, not Tom Watson, are our opponents. Let’s fight them.”
Corbyn will face pressure from delegates at the conference, which begins on Saturday in the English seaside town of Brighton, to shift towards openly backing remaining in the European Union.
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