Saturday 18 November 2017

'Zero chance' of coup despite deep divisions over Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn takes to the stage after he was announced as the Labour Party’s new leader at a special conference in London
Jeremy Corbyn takes to the stage after he was announced as the Labour Party’s new leader at a special conference in London
Jeremy Corbyn with defeated candidates (left to right) Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall

Kylie MacLellan London

There is "zero chance" of a coup against new British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, despite the deep divi- sions caused by his election, according to his deputy.

Mr Corbyn (66) won the support of 59.5pc of members and supporters, but he has far less backing among Labour MPs, with several saying that the party cannot win the next election in 2020 if it lurches left.

"I understand the concern of my colleagues in parliament," said Tom Watson, who was elected deputy leader alongside Mr Corbyn on Saturday.

"This is a huge change for the party, there is no point in denying this is a huge political realignment too, but Jeremy Corbyn has got a huge mandate from our members.

"I say to my colleagues, watch this space, respect the mandate that he has been given from our members, try and unify."

Mr Watson, appearing on BBC One's 'Andrew Marr Show' after Mr Corbyn pulled out of a planned interview, insisted there was "zero chance" of a coup against Mr Corbyn, but acknowledged that even he had major differences on policies, which he said could be put to the vote of Labour members.

At odds with the existing Labour position, anti-war campaigner Mr Corbyn opposes the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear-armed submarine programme and has advocated withdrawing from the Nato military alliance.

"I need to be honest about where I stand on things, I think Nato has kept the peace in Europe for half-a-century," Mr Watson said, adding that he did not believe most members had backed Mr Corbyn solely for his views on Nato.

"I aim to convince him of the merits of Nato. These things have got to be worked out."

Mr Watson, who backs the renewal of Trident, also said he would definitely be supporting Britain staying in the EU at a referendum next year.

The rise of Mr Corbyn, who voted 'No' to Europe in a 1975 referendum and has been ambiguous about how he plans to campaign in the upcoming vote, has raised fears among some British pro-Europeans that he will scupper the hopes of drawing out millions of Labour voters in support of the EU.


Prime minister David Cameron has quickly sought to play on Mr Corbyn's foreign-policy views, saying he is a risk to Britain's security and highlighting his past meetings with Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah - something Mr Corbyn has defended in the interest of gathering a wide range of views.

"Unlike Corbyn, the mainstream Labour Party does not believe in ducking our inter- national responsibilities. It would never offer succour to terrorist groups," Labour MP John Mann said yesterday.

Mr Mann warned that if Labour achieved success at local and regional elections next May under Mr Corbyn, he would have earned the right to lead the party into the 2020 national election.

Mr Corbyn said he had a "huge mandate" and members and supporters would expect Labour MPs to co-operate with him. But the mainly right-wing press was dominated by warnings over the party's future.

Mr Corbyn yesterday began a shake-up of the shadow cabinet, with shadow Northern Ireland secretary Ivan Lewis the first confirmed casualty.

With the newly elected Lab-our leader holed up in the Commons engaged in the thorny jigsaw of drawing up a new team, Mr Lewis said his offer to stay on to help respond to the ongoing political crisis at Stormont had been rejected.

Andy Burnham is to serve as shadow home secretary, as Mr Corbyn seeks to put together an inclusive frontbench team.

The defeated leadership rival was one of a number of centrist MPs put into high-profile jobs by the veteran left-winger.

Hilary Benn is the new shadow foreign secretary, Heidi Alexander is shadow health secretary and Lord Falconer is shadow justice secretary, it was revealed after a day of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Yvette Cooper - who held the home brief and came third in the contest behind Mr Burnham - is to chair a party "task force" on the refugee crisis, it was announced.

She had made clear during the campaign that she would not serve on the frontbench if Mr Corbyn became leader.

The first appointments were revealed shortly after Chuka Umunna and Mary Creagh became the latest to join a lengthy list of senior figures to declare they would return to the backbenches.

Mr Umunna, who was shadow business secretary and briefly a leadership candidate, said he "clearly had some differences in view" with Mr Corbyn, most significantly over Europe.

He expressed particular concern that Mr Corbyn appeared unwilling to guarantee that Labour would campaign to remain in the European Union in the forthcoming referendum on continued membership.

"It is my view that we should support the UK remaining a member of the EU, notwithstanding the outcome of any renegotiation by the prime minister, and I cannot envisage any circumstances where I would be campaigning alongside those who would argue for us to leave," he said.

"Jeremy has made it clear to me that he does not wholeheartedly share this view."

Irish Independent

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