Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock has warned MPs that Jeremy Corbyn is putting off voters and must resign as party leader.
In a passionate speech at a private meeting in parliament on Monday night, Kinnock said he would not let Corbyn split up Labour, declaring: "This is our party!"
His emotional remarks, punctuated with him banging the desk, were greeted with a standing ovation by Labour MPs and even moved ex-frontbencher Lucy Powell to tears. Corbyn is under mounting pressure to resign after dozens of MPs quit his front bench in the wake of the EU referendum.
Kinnock's speech to a gathering of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) came after veteran left-winger Dennis Skinner spoke in favour of Corbyn, saying he had won a huge mandate from Labour members and supporters.
But Kinnock, who fought off attempted infiltrations from hard-left activists when he was leader in the 1980s, warned bluntly: "There are some who are incapable of the instruction of reality so they better wake up."
Speaking so loudly that his voice could often be heard in the corridor outside, Kinnock said it was wrong to claim that Corbyn had the "biggest majority in history".
"In 1988 my majority against Tony Benn was 88.6%," he said. "Tony got 11.4% with the assistance of Dennis – and Jeremy Corbyn of course."
Kinnock said that when he was leader, the constituency parties "decided they'd had enough of posturing and wanted to give the Labour party a real chance". He added: "We gained 3.1 million votes because of those people!"
Skinner had appeared to point the finger at former leader Ed Miliband rather than Corbyn, saying Labour-leaning voters had been complaining in their local supermarkets last year that he wasn't up to the job.
But Kinnock pointed out: "Apply the supermarket test to Jeremy Corbyn and see what answer you get! We know what answer we're getting on the doorstep."
He said he had met a voter in Cardiff three weeks ago who complained about Corbyn. When Kinnock told him that "honestly, his heart's in the right place", the man apparently told him: "He thinks we're easy. We're not bloody easy, we're not listening, especially since he's weird."
Kinnock went on: "Now that is unfortunate but you know – everyone in this room knows – in the Welsh elections, in the Scottish elections, in the local elections, in the referendum, you know that is what you're getting from people who yearn to vote Labour but are inhibited by the fact that Jeremy is our leader. Let's face the fact."
Addressing Skinner directly, he said it wasn't true that the parliamentary party considered itself more important than Labour members.
"Because we are a democratic socialist party committed to the parliamentary road to power, it is vital, essential, irreplaceable that the leader of this party has substantial – at least substantial if not majority – support from those who go to the country and seek election to become lawmakers," Kinnock said.
"That makes it crucial to have a leader that enjoys the support of the parliamentary Labour party."
Building to a conclusion that saw MPs leap to their feet and applaud, Kinnock said: "A final point – there will be no split! There will be no retreat! Damn it, this is our party! I've been in it for 60 years, I'm not leaving it to anybody!"
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at email@example.com.
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