Sunday 20 May 2018

Three quit Corbyn's shadow cabinet over 'reshuffle' sackings

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who sacked two members of his shadow cabinet in a so-called ‘revenge reshuffle’. Photo: PA
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who sacked two members of his shadow cabinet in a so-called ‘revenge reshuffle’. Photo: PA

James Tapsfield

Jeremy Corbyn has been hit with three quick-fire resignations from his front bench after he sacked two "disloyal" senior figures and promoted a Trident opponent in a so-called "revenge reshuffle".

Jonathan Reynolds, Stephen Doughty and Kevan Jones all quit within the space of 90 minutes, citing differences with the British Labour leader on key policy issues and the treatment of their colleagues.

Mr Jones, MP for North Durham, said he "respected" Mr Corbyn's view that Britain's nuclear deterrent should be scrapped, but disagreed and could no longer remain as shadow defence minister.

"I am determined to continue making the case for Labour to have a strong, credible defence and security policies, and I feel that the most effective way for me to continue to do this is from the backbenches," he wrote in a resignation letter.

Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty quit as shadow foreign affairs minister live on television, telling the BBC's 'Daily Politics' programme that he had "looked at his own conscience" and was stepping down after the leader's office told "lies" about the reasons why Europe spokesman Pat McFadden had been dismissed.

Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds said he was resigning as shadow rail minister because he could not "in good conscience endorse the world view of the Stop the War Coalition" - a group closely linked to Mr Corbyn.

Speculation is growing that more frontbenchers could choose to leave in the wake of the shake-up, which also saw Michael Dugher ejected from the culture brief for "incompetence" and "disloyalty".

After more than 30 hours of wrangling, it was announced in the early hours of yesterday that Maria Eagle had been moved from the key shadow defence secretary role and replaced by Emily Thornberry - known to share Mr Corbyn's views on scrapping Britain's nuclear deterrent.

Mr Corbyn stopped short of shifting Hilary Benn from shadow foreign secretary despite their high-profile clash over Syria air strikes.

But the leader's allies said they had secured an "agreement" from him that there would be no repeat of the Syria air strikes situation - where he spoke in the Commons opposing the leader's position.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme: "Hilary Benn has ensured that he works more closely with Jeremy in the future and that he will be representing the views of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and when it comes down to future debates we won't have a situation where he will be speaking from the front bench when there is a major disagreement on policy and where the Parliamentary Labour Party is in the majority against him.

"He has recognised the mandate that Jeremy Corbyn has with our members, an overwhelming mandate, and he'll recognise his leadership on this issue."

On future free votes, Mr Corbyn will "represent the Parliamentary Labour Party at the front bench".

"If there is a disagreement and people on a free vote want to express their views, they will do it from the back benches," he added.

Speaking to reporters outside his home, Mr Benn said: "I haven't been muzzled. I'm going to be carrying on doing my job exactly as before, which is speaking for Labour on foreign policy, supporting Jeremy Corbyn and campaigning really hard to get Labour elected at the next general election."

Mr McFadden said the leader told him his "disloyalty" included a comment in Parliament where he condemned people who viewed terrorist acts as "always being a response or a reaction to what we in the West do".

The sackings were openly criticised by many MPs, with a series of shadow cabinet members praising their former colleagues and describing their departures as a "loss".

Labour sources dismissed praise from frontbenchers for Mr Dugher, whose brief has been taken by Ms Eagle, saying people "seemed to think he was more important than he was".

Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone rejected suggestions the leader was not in a position to demand loyalty after being a serial rebel under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Irish Independent

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