LABOUR MPs should “calm down” and await an imminent leadership challenge for Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said yesterday.

McDonnell yesterday said Corbyn is likely to face a leadership challenge in “the next few days” and called on rebels to serve the party leader “at a time when our country needs us and people need to step up to the plate”.

He said: “At the moment, Jeremy is leader of the Labour Party, elected with the largest mandate any political leader had from his political party only nine months ago.

“If there is to be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, in terms of a leadership contest, that will emerge I suspect over the next few days.

“If that is the case, my message to all Labour MPs now is just ‘calm down’, let’s do our job. It isn’t just our party members who need us to do our job, it is the country that need us to do our job.”

While a rebellion by 172 MPs has left Corbyn struggling to fill shadow cabinet posts, with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale among those calling for him to go, thousands of members of the public have expressed their continued support for the veteran politician.

A mass rally in Parliament Square attracted an estimated 10,000 people, according to the Momentum campaign which backs Corbyn. As many as 60,000 people are said to have joined the party with the prospect of fresh leadership elections.

Former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle is widely thought to be one challenger, with ex-shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith another.

Meanwhile, rival factions in the party continue to canvass for support on campaign websites.

Yesterday McDonnell said: “The internal difficulties within both parties will be resolved, hopefully by democratic means, and on that basis, amicably, the Labour Party will come back together.

“If there is to be a leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, let’s bring that forward, use the democratic process and then our party members will decide who is the leader and the future direction of our party.”

Dismissing claims he may run himself, McDonnell went on: “The stories that went round a few weeks ago [were] that I was building a plot to oust Jeremy and replace him. This week the story is I’m forcing him to stay.

“Let me make it absolutely clear – I will never stand for leader of the Labour Party. If Jeremy stands and there is a leadership campaign, I will chair his campaign committee.”

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Discussing the attempted coup, McDonnell said: “I find it really disappointing. Just at a time when our country needs us and people need to step up to the plate, now is not the time to stand down. Just behave responsibly.”The comments came as McDonnell set out five conditions for a Brexit deal, including freedom of trade, the continuation of EU protections for workers, a seat on the European Investment Bank and guarantees for EU nationals in the UK and British citizens on the continent.

He said: “Let’s be absolutely clear on the immigration issue. When Britain leaves the European Union, free movement of labour and people will then come to an end.

“We need to consult with the British people on the nature then of the relationship we have with regard to the movement of people and workers.

“The problem of a referendum – it’s a binary choice. We have to respect the decision of it, but now we have to explore the details of those implications and allow the people of this country to participate in the debate about what sort of relationship we have with the European Union. That includes the issue with regards to immigration itself.”

Backing Corbyn, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said: “He’s only been in the job nine months – do you know anyone who gets sacked within nine months?

“I believe in democracy and he is the leader on a democratic mandate and if you want to change it use our rules and put up somebody and fight. At the moment, do we know if there’s somebody from Labour?

“It just seems a lot of huffing and puffing and I’m going to put it down to the midsummer madness.”