Wales politics

Owen Smith MP: Corbyn 'prepared to see Labour split'

Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn

Potential Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith has claimed Jeremy Corbyn and his allies are prepared to see the party split.

Owen Smith, the MP for Pontypridd, said he was seeking a meeting with the embattled Labour leader on Monday to try to heal divisions.

Mr Corbyn, who faces a leadership challenge from Angela Eagle, said he was surprised by Mr Smith's claims.

He was elected leader by Labour members but is opposed by many MPs.

He has faced a challenge to his authority as Labour leader after he lost a no-confidence vote and has resisted repeated calls to stand down following the mass resignation of his frontbench team last month.

Ms Eagle said her challenge for the Labour leadership is a bid to "heal the party".

It is understood Mr Smith is also considering challenging Mr Corbyn for the leadership.

Image copyright Twitter

The MP, who resigned as shadow welfare secretary, tweeted on Sunday to say: "On July 27 I asked @jeremycorbyn 3 times if he was prepared to see our party split & worse, wanted it to. He offered no answer

"In the same meeting, in response to the same question @johnmcdonnellMP shrugged his shoulders and said 'if that's what it takes.'

"I am not prepared to stand by and see our party split. And I have asked to meet with Jeremy again tomorrow to see how we can stop that."

On Friday, Mr Smith said he had urged party members to give Mr Corbyn "more time".

He said he and he had been talking to Unite union leader Len McClusky and Mr Corbyn to "explore what I can do" to heal party rifts.

'Slightly surprised'

Speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Corbyn said he had "absolutely not" told Mr Smith that he would prefer to see the party split than stand aside.

"I've no idea why Owen should say such a thing," he said.

"I had quite interesting, almost philosophical, political discussion with Owen a week ago.

"I'm slightly surprised he would go out and say that.

"I'm happy to have a discussion with Owen any time so we can discuss how we can take things forward."

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