Saturday, June 25

Corbyn Starts Work On Forming New Top Team



Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will today begin the task of assembling a shadow cabinet – in the face of deep divisions over his radical left wing policies.

Less than 24 hours after his resounding win in the leadership contest, six shadow cabinet ministers have resigned with others tipped to follow.

Mr Corbyn, 66, the long-standing MP for Islington North, has promised half of the new top team will be women.

Announcements are expected over the next 48 hours as Mr Corbyn prepares for his first appearance before the Parliamentary Labour Party in the Commons on Monday.

The scale of his victory among party members as well as trade unionists and new-found supporters – he won almost 60% of the 422,664 votes cast – has muted talk of a bid by disgruntled moderates to oust him.

But the resignations of a string of senior figures has underlined the task he faces uniting the party behind his anti-war and anti-austerity platform.

John Woodcock, who chairs the Blairite Progress group, warned colleagues against “a fresh round of division and resentment between MPs who choose to be ‘innies’ and those who are ‘outies”‘.

He added: “If we are to move on from here we must recognise how damaging it has been for Labour people – who have all basically wanted the same thing – to have knocked lumps out of each other for 20 years.”

Mr Corbyn has urged members of the parliamentary party to set aside any misgivings and help him develop an “effective strategy” for opposing the Government on issues such as welfare reform and the budget.

His first move was to keep Rosie Winterton in the crucial role of chief whip, with his campaign chief and fellow left-winger John McDonnell among those tipped for the post of shadow chancellor.

However, Sky’s Political Correspondent Sophy Ridge said: “My understanding is there has been a row over the shadow chancellor’s job – and a split within the Corbyn camp.

“Some think it should go to John McDonnell. However, others warn Mr Corbyn should appoint someone who could be seen as a ‘unity candidate’ – such as Angela Eagle, Hillary Benn or Owen Smith.

Ridge says the shadow cabinet appointments will be a “crucial test” for the new leader and his deputy, Tom Watson.

Beaten leadership rivals Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall are among those who have said they will not take a senior role, along with Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Chris Leslie, Emma Reynolds and Jamie Reed.

Ed Miliband – whose resignation after the General Election in May sparked the leadership contest – has called on the party to join him in supporting Mr Corbyn but indicated that he would also not be seeking a return to the frontline.

It is not clear whether Andy Burnham – who came a distant second in the leadership race – and Chuka Umunna, who has issued a plea for unity, would be prepared to accept jobs.

Mr Corbyn has a busy first week. As well as forming his team he must prepare for a Commons debate on proposed anti-strike laws, a speech to the TUC annual conference and his first Prime Minister’s Questions.

He has asked supporters to suggest what they would like him to ask David Cameron at the weekly set-piece, which he has promised will be less confrontational.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron – who has warned that Labour under Mr Corbyn pose a threat to the UK’s security and economic health – had telephoned his new adversary to congratulate him.