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JEREMY CORBYN’S chances of remaining leader of the Labour Party were boosted yesterday as his two rivals went to war live on TV.
Owen Smith and Angela Eagle squabbled over who should stand against Mr Corbyn in an extraordinary head-to-head on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
Mr Smith, who is said to have the support of 90 MPs, said: “My view is whoever commands the greatest degree of support within the Parliamentary Labour Party is the unity candidate and that is the person who should go forward and take Jeremy on.”
But Ms Eagle, whose team believe Mr Smith is attempting to bully her out of the race, shot back: “I think we have to have the person who is most likely to beat Jeremy Corbyn and I think that’s me.”
The pair will clash again today at a hustings for Labour MPs and Lords in Westminster, which Mr Corbyn will also take part in.
The deadline for MPs to formally nominate a candidate is Wednesday and Ms Eagle will come under renewed pressure to drop out if she trails Mr Smith.
Mr Smith officially launched his campaign in his Pontypridd constituency yesterday by promising to re-write clause four of the party’s constitution, which Tony Blair infamously gutted of socialist content.
He said the party needs to “put tackling inequality right at the heart of everything that we do” and claimed to offer a “radical and credible” alternative to Mr Corbyn.
But his left-wing credentials are thrown into question by his support for the Iraq war and NHS private finance initiatives before entering Parliament.
One Labour MP told the Star: “His only hope is trying to dupe unions and members into believing he represents the anti-austerity, socialist and trade union-orientated politics of Jeremy Corbyn.
“He has form when it comes to spin — he is now saying he was against the Iraq war but is actually on the record as having likened it to the Spanish civil war.
“A former special adviser and Westminster insider, politically he’s more Hilary Benn than Tony Benn.”
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards described Mr Smith as “fork-tongued,” branding him: “An expert in judging his audience — a former CND member one day, and a man who is prepared to annihilate millions of people with a nuclear weapon the next.”
Mr Smith confirmed that he would return to the shadow cabinet if Mr Corbyn won in order to avoid a split in the party.
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