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Corbyn hits back at critics over women in shadow cabinet


Labour Party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Reuters

Labour Party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Reuters


Labour Party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Reuters

New UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was underfire yesterday for not appointing any women to the top jobs in the shadow cabinet, namely the shadow chancellor (John McDonnell), the home secretary (Andy Burnham) and the foreign secretary (Hilary Benn).

It was widely suggested that Angela Eagle would have made a fitting shadow chancellor but she was instead given the business brief.

However, last night Mr Corbyn responded to critics by accusing them of being stuck "in the 18th century" and saying posts such as education and health, both held by women, were just as important these days.

It has also emerged that he has agreed to join Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council. There had been speculation that the staunch republican would refuse to join the council. Now that he has agreed, he will be required to kneel before the queen and kiss her hand to formalise the appointment.

If he had refused to join, there was a suggestion that the government would withhold sensitive information around Isil from him.

Last night, he hosted his first meeting of Labour MPs. It was expected to be heated after many of them were left furious by the appointment of John McDonnell to the shadow chancellor post. Mr McDonnell is a hard-left MP who previously proposed taxing incomes over £100,000 at 60pc. He also landed himself in hot water for once joking that he wanted to "assassinate" Margaret Thatcher and for praising the "bravery" of the IRA.

Mr McDonnell, who boasts in his Who's Who entry that his hobbies include "fermenting (sic) the overthrow of capitalism", has backed renationalisation of the banking system, effectively printing money to fund government investment.

He told the BBC: "I have got a long history in terms of financial administration. I was chancellor of the exchequer for London at the age of 29. My new policies, with Jeremy's, have been roundly endorsed by the leadership election, so the economy would be safe in our hands but also it would be more prosperous."

But the scale of the problems Mr Corbyn faces in uniting the party were underlined as Hilary Benn, who is staying on as shadow foreign secretary, declined to offer full endorsement for Mr McDonnell's appointment.

Asked if he was 100pc behind Mr McDonnell being handed the key economic job, Mr Benn told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme: "This is the choice that Jeremy has made. I respect the choice that Jeremy has made as leader. We have just come off the back of two bad election defeats for the Labour Party, and our principle task is to win the people's trust when it comes to the economy.

"John's first and last task as shadow chancellor will be to win the trust and confidence of the British people in arguing for a different economic policy."

Pressed on whether he welcomes Mr McDonnell taking charge of the Treasury brief, Mr Benn said: "I welcome everybody who is serving in Jeremy Corbyn's cabinet... because Jeremy won a thumping victory, we have a responsibility to rally round him."

Meanwhile, Mr McDonnell has dismissed claims women have been snubbed for the top jobs in the shadow cabinet.

Mr McDonnell told reporters: "It is interesting, Jeremy said very, very clearly that we don't accept the hierarchical nature of what we have inherited by these supposed top jobs. They largely stem from the 19th century when you had an empire and all that.

"For most people, the real top jobs are the ones that provide the services like health and education, those sorts of things.

"So he has broken with that tradition and I'm really pleased."

He added: "You can't say that Foreign Secretary is more important than delivering education to our children, or the health of the people of this population." (© Daily Telegraph London)