David Cameron has urged Jeremy Corbyn to quit as Labour leader in the "national interest" during an astonishingly tense Prime Minister's Questions that highlighted the complete chaos of post–EU referendum British politics.
With Britain in political and economic crisis, the prime minister returned from a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to address a deeply divided House of Commons in which his Tory party is split and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has lost the support of almost all his MPs.
The prime minister calmly answered Corbyn's six questions, largely without resulting to the usual personal insults, only to conclude with one clear direct attack on the Labour leader: "For heaven’s sake, man, go!"
Cameron also criticised Corbyn's insistence the Labour leader worked hard for Remain during the EU referendum campaign, saying: "He said he put his back into it – I would hate to see him when he wasn't trying."
The prime minister said the Conservatives were benefiting from Labour's implosion but the country was suffering: "It might be in my party’s interest for him to sit there, it’s not in the national interest, and I would say, for heaven’s sake, man, go!"
Afterwards, Corbyn's allies insisted the Labour leader was not going anywhere. At the same time supportive social media accounts seized on Cameron's call to suggest that a vote against Corbyn was exactly what the Tories wanted.
Corbyn has the backing of only 40 Labour MPs following yesterday's vote of no confidence in his leadership. As a result, he entered the House of Commons to sit on the opposition front bench alongside an almost entirely new and untested shadow cabinet.
Labour MPs sat in near silence throughout, many playing with their mobile phones, only getting marginally animated when Corbyn called for unity: "Our country is divided, so we must heal that division. Our economy is fragile, so we must begin to rebuild it. Our duty now is to move forward in a calm and conciliatory manner to build a new relationship with Europe and build a Britain that works for everyone in every part of this country."
The Labour leader stuck solidly to major questions about the economy and Brexit before attacking the prime minister's record on poverty.
Other MPs raised concerns about the level of racist attacks since the referendum, and the prime minister condemned all such attacks.
Cameron also warned the economy could struggle due to Brexit and said his government would spend the summer producing different templates for deals the UK could do with the EU.
"There are going to be some very choppy waters ahead," Cameron said.
Awkwardly, Corbyn had to sit next to deputy leader Tom Watson, who is now involved in discussions about launching a formal leadership challenge to replace the Labour leader. Watson left the chamber immediately after the conclusion of PMQs, leaving the rest of the front bench to listen to Cameron's statement on the European Council.
The Labour leader insists he's going nowhere and his team say Labour MPs should gather 51 signatures and mount a formal challenge if they want to remove him.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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