The Labour leadership crisis has taken a turn to the dark side as Jeremy Corbyn ally Diane Abbott branded Angela Eagle as the "Empire Strikes Back" candidate. The shadow health secretary made the Star Wars related remark ahead of Eagle launching her leadership challenge against Corbyn this afternoon (11 July).

"She is a perfectly nice woman but what she is the Empire Strikes Back candidate," Abbott told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "She voted for the Iraq war and more besides. If she runs, party members will be offered a clear political choice."

Eagle, 55, was one of a slew of shadow cabinet ministers to quit Corbyn's top team in protest over his EU referendum performance and in reaction to the left-winger sacking Hilary Benn as shadow foreign secretary.

The move will also come after a vast majority of Labour MPs backed a motion of "no confidence" against Corbyn.

The former shadow business secretary was tipped to launch her leadership bid more than a week ago, but this was delayed to allow peace talks with the trade unions and give Corbyn more time to quit.

Eagle, who was first elected to parliament in 1992, is now expected to launch her leadership challenge alongside Benn. "The Labour Party needs to be saved," she told The Daily Mirror. "I'm stepping up to the plate to say it's about time we did this so we can make the Labour Party relevant again and so we can contend for government.

"I want to ensure our country can be healed after the terrible shock that Brexit is going to inflict on it. In order to heal our country, we have got to ensure we change the Labour Party so that we can do that historic task and I think I am the person to do that."

Corbyn, who won almost 60% of the vote in Labour's 2015 leadership election, said he was "disappointed" by Eagle's decision to challenge him. The left-winger also told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that he expected to immediately be on a leadership ballot, despite claims he would have to attract 51 nominations from Labour MPs and MEPs.

The decision will be made by the party's ruling body, the National Executive Committee, but Corbyn warned he could launch a legal challenge if he is not included. Elsewhere, Owen Smith, the former shadow work and pensions secretary, has hinted that he may launch his own leadership challenge