IN an act of Machiavellian treachery rarely seen at the top of the Labour Party, Hilary Benn has been acting in a sinister leadership coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn.
It emerged just four hours ago that Mr Benn, the shadow Foreign Secretary, called fellow members of the shadow cabinet during Friday and Saturday suggesting he will ask Corbyn to stand down if there is significant support for a move against the leader.
He also asked shadow cabinet colleagues to join him in resigning if the Labour leader ignores that request.
But in an uncharacteristic move, Jeremy Corbyn acted swiftly to stop Mr Benn’s attempts and immediately sacked him as Foreign Secretary.
Mr Corbyn informed Benn, the son of his former mentor, Tony Benn, at 1am on Sunday that he was sacking him because he had lost the Labour leader’s trust, a spokesman for the party leader said.
The spokesman said Mr Corbyn had “lost confidence” in Mr Benn.
The Labour leader is facing a no confidence vote over claims he fought a “lacklustre” campaign in the EU vote.
Mr Corbyn, speaking earlier on Saturday at a speech in London, had acknowledged rumblings of discontent about his leadership.
“Yes, there are some people in the Labour party, and the parliamentary Labour party in particular, who probably want someone else to be the leader – I think they’ve made that abundantly clear,” he said.
Sources close to the leadership indicated that Benn had been a marked man for many months.
The MP for Leeds Central dismayed Mr Corbyn, when he made a passionate speech in favour of British bombing in Syria in December.
By Christmas, the relationship had broken down to such an extent that sources in the leader’s office briefed they would sack Benn in the New Year reshuffle.
Benn stayed in place after protestations from other shadow ministers, but only after days of uncertainty over his position.
Rumours that Benn would be ousted in a future Labour reshuffle had circulated in Westminster since then. However, today’s development will be a major jolt to the shadow cabinet.
It is yet to be seen whether it will only strengthen the resolve of some to launch a unified assault on Mr Corbyn’s leadership or quieten down the rebels.
So at 5am on Sunday – less than 18 hours after I published Eight Labour MPs who should hang their heads in Shame, I am turning again to defend Mr Corbyn and try and shine a light on people intent on removing him for their own narrow political ends.
One thing is certain, Hilary’s father the late and great Tony Benn, an MP for 38 years and former president of the Stop the War Coalition, would be turning in his grave over his son’s recent actions.
Tony Benn, had diametrically opposite views on many issues – the most obvious being war and nature of nuclear weapons – to his right wing son.
Hilary Benn has always been very sensitive to comparisons to his late father’s socialist and humanitarian views.
Now he has not only betrayed his father’s loyalty to Mr Corbyn, but also his father’s memory.
For while Tony Benn often rebelled against the Labour leadership – most prominently against Tony Blair – he always did openly and often vocally from his seat in the House of Commons.
He did not go round in the darkened hours telephoning colleagues to arrange a coup.
But Mr Corbyn still has a number of allies within the parliamentary party, led by John McDonnell, Andy McDonald, Dennis Skinner, Jon Trickett, Catherine Smith, Graham Morris and Diane Abbot.
Last night Welsh Labour MPs called on their colleagues in Westminster to dismiss the motion of no confidence in their leader.
Paul Flynn called on colleagues critical of Mr Corbyn to “shut up”.
Jo Stevens, MP for Cardiff Central, said the move was “self-indulgent”.
Ms Stevens, said she believed it was “terribly unfair” to blame the referendum result on the Labour party.
“Two-thirds of Labour voters, according to the polls, voted to Remain,” she said. She suggested that the support for Remain among SNP voters was “identical”.
“So our situation is no different,” she said.
“I think we should be focusing entirely on what the country now needs.
“Our responsibility as a party is to ensure we go into these negotiations protecting the rights that EU membership gave us – human rights, consumer rights, environmental rights, and most importantly, our rights at work.
“They have to be safeguarded. We fought for them for many, many decades and we’ve got to make sure that they stay.”
Newport West MP Paul Flynn agreed, saying of some colleagues’ criticism of Jeremy Corbyn: “I wish they’d shut up and get on with the job that we have to represent our own people.”
“If you go ahead and undermine Jeremy, the only result will be two Labour parties because the party in the country is not going to accept a group of parliamentarians overthrowing a decision taken by huge majority by the rank and file of the party,” he added.
Later last night fellow MPs Richard Burgon (Leeds East) and Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) both tweeted their support for Mr Corbyn.