The UK’s Labour Party decided on Tuesday that its leader Jeremy Corbyn has the automatic right to stand again in a new leadership contest pitting him against Angela Eagle.
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled that Corbyn would automatically appear on the ballot paper rather than having to undertake the strenuous task of finding 51 lawmakers willing to nominate him.
"The NEC has agreed that as the incumbent leader, Jeremy Corbyn will go forward onto the ballot without requiring nominations from the Parliamentary Labour Party and the European Parliamentary Labour Party," a party spokesperson said in a statement.
The decision to automatically include the veteran socialist on the leadership ballot comes following almost six hours of closed door discussions, with 33 members of the NEC participating in the vote that came out in favour of Corbyn by 18 votes to 14.
The ruling has set the stage for a struggle between Corbyn’s supporters and party lawmakers who want to oust him.
The decision made by the NEC brings Corbyn up against Labour lawmaker Angela Eagle who has challenged Corbyn to a leadership contest, saying that he has failed to connect with voters and is not capable of winning a national election.
Eagle reported that she felt glad that the NEC had reached a decision, saying "I welcome the contest ahead. And I am determined to win it," on Twitter.
I'm glad Labour's NEC has come to a decision. I welcome the contest ahead. And I am determined to win it https://t.co/gdNLprxi06
— Angela Eagle (@angelaeagle) July 12, 2016
Corbyn has faced calls to resign as party leader ever since the June 23 referendum that called for Britain to leave the EU.
The EU referendum sparked a wave of resignations from Corbyn’s policy team with many saying that he did not campaign hard enough to prevent Brexit, and culminated in the passing of a motion of no-confidence in him by a margin of 172 to 140.
But Corbyn retains strong support among the party’s more left-leaning rank-and-file members meaning that he could hold on to power and prolong the stand-off with MPs.
In defying the pressure to resign, Corbyn has cited the overwhelming mandate he won last September when he won the leadership due to the party’s grassroots members.
Corbyn said his re-election campaign would be based on tackling inequality and poverty in Britain, adding that he would be reaching out to everyone in the party.
"I am sure Labour MPs will understand that the party has to come together in order to present to the British people the option of a different and better way of doing things," he said.
The potential change in Labour's leadership comes amid a rapidly changing political landscape as incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron is due to step down on Wednesday as head of the Conservative Party, effectively handing the reins over to Theresa May who will guide the country through months of difficult negotiations with the EU over Brexit.
Labour’s internal strife has also fuelled tensions among its supporters. Police said on Tuesday that Eagle’s constituency office in northern England had been vandalised. Corbyn said that he and other lawmakers had received death threats.
"It is extremely concerning that Angela Eagle has been the victim of a threatening act and that other MPs are receiving abuse and threats," Corbyn said in a statement.
Eagle, however, has blamed the vandalism and threats on Corbyn. "They are being done in his name and he needs to get control of the people who are supporting him and make certain that this behaviour stops and stops now," she said.