Angela Eagle insisted she has not embarked on a political “suicide mission” as she launched her bid to topple Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
The former shadow business secretary said she could make Labour electable again after the “howl of pain” expressed in the Brexit vote by people who felt they had been ignored for too long.
“I don’t go in for suicide missions,” Ms Eagle said when asked if her chances were doomed if Mr Corbyn is allowed on the ballot paper.
Ms Eagle insisted it was a matter for the party’s ruling National Executive Committee whether Mr Corbyn needed to be nominated by 51 MPs and MEPs to be allowed to stand as a candidate.
The ex-minister said she had no choice but to move against Mr Corbyn because Britain was in danger of becoming a “one-party Tory state” under his leadership.
Her bid looks set to trigger civil war within the party and comes after 172 Labour MPs indicated that they had no confidence in Mr Corbyn in a vote in which he garnered the support of just 40 Westminster colleagues.
Describing herself as a “practical socialist”, Ms Eagle said Mr Corbyn was not up to the job.
“He has been hiding behind a door not talking to his Members of Parliament – that’s not leadership. He’s opened the party to new ideas, but we need other people to take them forward. This isn’t about splitting the Labour Party, it is about creating a strong, united party.
“I am a person who brings people together, I don’t drive them apart. I will unite, I will not divide,” Ms Eagle said.
Ms Eagle has the backing of the 51 MPs needed for a formal challenge but it remains unclear whether Mr Corbyn will also have to secure the support of MPs in order to fight the leadership battle.
Meanwhile, Owen Smith, another potential leadership contender, expressed fears Mr Corbyn and his allies are prepared to split the party in order to remain in place.
In a further sign the party is on the verge of all-out civil war, Mr Smith said that at a meeting with Mr Corbyn he asked him three times whether he is prepared to see a split but “he offered no answer”, while the leader’s ally and shadow chancellor John McDonnell “shrugged his shoulders and said ‘if that’s what it takes”‘.
Ms Eagle said she was ready to “take on all comers” for the leadership.
Asked if her persona was “too gloomy” to lead the party, Ms Eagle said: “Well, we all have our moments.”
Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol said: “I have now received sufficient nominations to trigger a contest for the position of leader of the Labour Party.
“I will now ask the chair of the National Executive Committee to convene a meeting to confirm arrangements for an election.”