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Eagle withdraws from Labour leadership contest

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that leadership challenger Owen Smith told him he was happy in the shadow cabinet and wanted to remain there before going out and announcing his resignation.

Almost 200,000 people have applied for a vote in the Labour leadership contest in an apparent boost for Jeremy Corbyn's hopes of seeing off a challenge from Owen Smith.

Smith and Corbyn will now go head-to-head in a summer-long campaign before Labour party members who joined before January, and registered supporters who paid £25 before the deadline this afternoon, cast their votes and the result is announced on the 24th of September.

"It is in the best interests of the Labour Party that we now come together so we can have one candidate", she told reporters.

Asked about the polls, which show Labour lagging some way behind the Conservatives and Corbyn facing hugely negative personal ratings, the Labour leader said these would shift: "I think that once the leadership election is over, many will realise the importance of the message we are putting forwards".

Theresa May has mocked Jeremy Corbyn as an "unscrupulous boss" who exploited Labour Party rules to further his own career as the two clashed for the first time at Prime Minister's Questions. His backers included former party leader Ed Miliband and former foreign minister Margaret Beckett. It is thought that her decision to withdraw early was taken to prevent the publication of names of her backers and avoid the creation of rival camps on the anti-Corbyn side.

The nominations-gathering process officially closes at 1600 GMT on Wednesday, triggering the formal contest. Already the next general election is shaping up to be a total write-off. They have been out of office since 2010. Although the anti-austerity, anti-war and anti-nuclear politician enjoys support from many Labour members, he lost a vote of no confidence by 172 to 40.

Mr Smith said he was embarrassed that he called 999 for a police response to a story when he was a BBC journalist, but blamed the incident on a "bullying" culture at the broadcaster.

In a poll this week, it was suggested that Mr Corbyn would comfortably beat him with 56 per cent of the grassroot membership still backing the incumbent.

The incident followed repeated complaints by Labour MPs particularly women that they have been subjected to threats and abuse from Corbyn's grassroots supporters if they speak out against the party leader.

If, as it seems possible, the rump of the party MPs still loyal to Corbyn was less than the SNP's 54, Labour would be finished. A brick was hurled through Eagle's office window.

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