Embattled Jeremy Corbyn has been told he is likely to face a leadership election if he does not quit as the revolt against him gathered momentum.

The Labour leader held crisis talks with his deputy Tom Watson in Westminster after a string of frontbenchers quit their roles in protest at his leadership.

Mr Corbyn appointed loyalist MPs to key positions in his shadow cabinet after Sunday’s mass resignations left him with vacancies in top jobs. But as Mr Corbyn moved to replace the members of the frontbench team who had quit, resignation letters continued to pile up on his desk.

The meeting between Mr Corbyn and Mr Watson was described as “civil” by a spokesman for the leader. But a senior party source said Mr Corbyn was left in no doubt he had lost the support of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The source said Mr Corbyn was told by Mr Watson that “it looks like we are moving towards a leadership election”. According to the source the deputy leader told Mr Corbyn he would have to decide whether he wanted to endure a “bruising” internal battle before the prospect of a “very tough general election”.

The source said the final decision on Mr Corbyn’s future was a matter for him. A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said the leader was “categorically not” told to quit by Mr Watson.

 

Mr Corbyn attempted to maintain his grip on his position by promoting a series of allies, including a number of MPs from the 2015 intake.

Former shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry will replace Hilary Benn, who was sacked as shadow foreign secretary in the early hours of Sunday morning.

And Diane Abbott replaces Heidi Alexander, who quit as shadow health secretary – one of the 11 shadow cabinet ministers who resigned in protest.

Other appointments confirmed by Mr Corbyn in his reshuffle were Pat Glass as shadow education secretary, Andy McDonald in the transport brief, Clive Lewis takes defence, Rebecca Long-Bailey will be shadow chief secretary and Kate Osamor is the new shadow development secretary.

The shadow environment, food and rural affairs portfolio has gone to Rachael Maskell, Cat Smith is the shadow voter engagement and youth affairs minister and Dave Anderson becomes shadow Northern Ireland secretary.

But as new jobs were allocated, the mayhem in the Labour ranks saw a string of junior frontbenchers follow the lead of their former shadow cabinet colleagues in walking out on Mr Corbyn.

Junior frontbenchers including Diana Johnson, Anna Turley, Steve Reed, Yvonne Fovargue, Toby Perkins, Wayne David and Alex Cunningham resigned.

Shadow ministerial aides including Stephen Kinnock – the son of former Labour leader Lord Kinnock – also quit.

A motion of no confidence is set to be considered at the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, with the possibility of a secret vote on Tuesday.

In a tough talking statement on Sunday night, Mr Corbyn insisted he would fight for his job and contest any leadership challenge.

“I was elected by hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics,” he said.

Anyone who wanted to change the Labour leadership would have to stand in an election “in which I will be a candidate”, he vowed.

Sources close to Mr Corbyn confirmed he remained of the view that it would take a leadership election defeat to oust him.

Asked if Mr Corbyn should resign, shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Sky News: “Not at all. He is the elected leader of the Labour Party, elected by the party members. They are the sovereign body. Jeremy shouldn’t resign at all.”