UK's Labour says Corbyn has automatic right to defend leadership

Inside members of Labour's national executive committee (NEC) were debating whether or not Mr Corbyn should be automatically allowed onto the ballot paper to fight off a challenge to his leadership from Angela Eagle.

The decision boosts Corbyn's chances of resisting an attempt to oust him, but could be subject to a legal challenge from opponents who say he should have to gather support from 51 lawmakers - something he may struggle to do.

Supporters of Mr Corbyn, who this afternoon called for "calm" and "dignity" after the vandalism of Ms Eagle's Wirral office, have flooded the former shadow business secretary's Facebook and Twitter accounts with rallying cries for their pro-Corbyn campaign.

"Corbynistas" have inundated the social media accounts of the Wallasey MP who is bidding to depose Mr Corbyn at the top of the party following the fall-out from the Brexit referendum result.

Corbyn was forced into the leadership challenge after a majority of Labour MPs passed a "no confidence" vote in his leadership.

The scene is now set for a showdown between Corbyn, who has the support of thousands of left-wing activists, and the moderate wing of the Labour party who see him as an election liability.

Corbyn and his allies had legal opinion arguing that the 20 per cent threshold should only apply to challengers - not to the leader.

Mr Corbyn said: "I have been elected, last year, 10 months ago today, with a very large mandate.

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I will be Labour until the day I die", Smith told the BBC's Today Programme. "I want to put that to the membership, I want to make my case to be the next leader of not just the Labour Party but the next Labour prime minister".

On Tuesday morning, it was reported a brick had been thrown through the window of Ms Eagle's constituency office in Wallasey, Merseyside, overnight and numerous abusive messages had been left on her parliamentary answer phone.

Mr Corbyn was mobbed by journalists as he entered the building for the meeting. It was also announced that the fee for joining the party and casting a vote will rise from £3 to £25.

Mr Corbyn was swept to power on a wave of registered supporters that paid a £3 fee to vote in the contest.

Labour Party members need to have signed up on or before January 12 to be eligible to vote in the leadership contest.

Merseyside police and crime commissioner Jane Kennedy said members of the "hard left" were creating a climate which encouraged such attacks and said the building - which also houses other businesses - would be given "special attention" by police.

The timetable for the contest will be published on Thursday but reports suggest it will run well into September.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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