Tuesday 27 June 2017

Corbyn routs his opponents in Labour poll

Victor: Jeremy Corbyn increased his winning margin. Photo: Reuters
Victor: Jeremy Corbyn increased his winning margin. Photo: Reuters

Toby Helm and Daniel Boffey

A triumphant Jeremy Corbyn last night pledged to reward the mass membership of Britain's Labour Party with more power over the running of the party after he inflicted a thumping defeat on leadership challenger Owen Smith.

Corbyn, who secured almost 62pc of the vote - an even bigger mandate than a year ago - said that his victory was a personal "vindication" that had increased his power and authority to create a mass democratic movement from the grassroots upwards.

Smith secured 38pc of the 506,438 votes cast.

Setting out his plans for phase two of his leadership after a year of bitter disputes with his MPs, Corbyn said: "I have been given the authority by the members and that is what I intend to deliver on."

While he insisted he would now "wipe the slate clean" and offer a way back for rebel MPs who had plotted to remove him over the summer, he made clear that it was ordinary members - his power base in the party - who now had to be given a greater say in a remodelled Labour Party.

"The participation is even higher, and my majority is bigger, and the mandate is very strong. So let's use it to reach out," he said. "With this huge membership, that has to be reflected much more in decision making in the party."

Meanwhile, his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said that in a year's time, the party's total membership could reach one million.

Corbyn made it clear that with a current total of well over 600,000 members, the grassroots needed far greater representation on key bodies, such as the National Executive Committee (NEC).

Any hope that this second decisive Corbyn victory in a year would tempt senior figures who quit the shadow cabinet over the summer back into the fold were quickly dashed as several said they would return only if the leader allowed MPs to choose most of the members of his shadow cabinet.

Corbyn said the issue of shadow cabinet election was open for discussion but refused to commit to the MPs' demands, saying it was part of a wider debate about how to increase democracy in the party.

Smith, the former work and pensions spokesman, warmly congratulated Corbyn, but again ruled out returning to the shadow cabinet.

"Jeremy has won the contest," he said. "He now has to win the country and he will have my support in trying to do so."

The result left critics of Corbyn on the right of the party searching for a way forward after the attempted summer coup against the leader backfired spectacularly.

The party now has to prepare for a possible general election as early as May next year. Corbyn called on MPs to join a campaign day next weekend against the Tories' plans to reintroduce grammar schools to show that the entire party can now unite.

© Observer

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