This was no “revenge reshuffle”

6th January, 2016 8:40 am

Jeremy Corbyn

This is not, and was never going to be, a revenge reshuffle. It is not a contradiction of Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of honest, inclusive politics. By replacing shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle with Emily Thornberry, shadow EU Pat McFadden with Pat Glass and sacking Michael Dugher, Labour’s leader is doing his job – a position to which he was elected by 59.5% of the selectorate. On a landslide victory. He is well within his job description to make sure that his shadow cabinet is the most effective it can be. But you wouldn’t know that, listening to some Labour MPs, they’re clinging to the anti-Corbyn bandwagon – and they aren’t doing themselves or their party any favours.

For a small, vocal group of MPs Jeremy Corbyn can do no right. In fact, almost everything he does is wrong. These people are well within their right to point out areas of disagreement and argue their own point of view, but actively briefing against Corbyn, dismissing certain activists and shining a spotlight on discontent – instead of the Tories – is pernicious.

What does Corbyn dare to do next? Act as many more who have come before him. Although not all outcomes are positive, reshuffles are not some new, alien phenomenon. Harold MacMillan sacked a third of his cabinet in 1962; Margaret Thatcher sacked three ministers, Ian Gilmour, Mark Carlisle and Lord Soames, in 1981 to get her cabinet in line with her economic plans; Tony Blair moved Robin Cooke from Foreign Secretary because they didn’t agree on certain foreign policy issues and David Cameron didn’t reappoint Eric Pickles. Corbyn is not exacting revenge; he is being a leader.

But whatever move he makes it will be a mistake in the eyes of some. His decision to keep Hilary Benn in place will start whispers that he’s weak and caving into pressure; if he’d sacked the shadow foreign secretary he’d have been likened to an ideology-driven autocrat.

The comments made by some MPs in recent months have been frustrating to witness. Change is difficult; negotiating with people you don’t agree with on certain issues is hard. Even when we try to take the personalities out of it, politics is so very personal.

But the way they’ve been acting is an insult to the overwhelming number of people who voted for Corbyn and a let down for all those people who desperately need a vocal, concise and coherent Labour opposition. The leadership does not escape blame in this arena – better messaging, a clear narrative and a more representative top team are needed – but the constant griping is simply making progress impossible.

While there’s constant coverage of Labour’s internecine conflict – the media are doing pretty well out of this orchestrated clash – the Tories are left to do as they please without any real scrutiny. Little is being said about the swingeing cuts to mental health services, the thousands of people that will be plunged (further) into poverty, the Government’s cuts to flood defences – leaving far too many households at risk of flooding – or the moorland drained for grouse shooting that contributes to floods in cities.

Meanwhile Tory candidate for London Mayor engages in the worst kind of politics: branding his opponent, Sadiq Khan, as a “radical” (read as code for Muslim extremist) and then criticises Khan of playing the “race card” when he’s pulled up on it. David Cameron gives way to dissenting ministers so they can campaign however they like on the EU. And still, anger at Corbyn dominates.

Calls for calm seem to have had little effect so far but the Labour party can work together to be an effective opposition if MPs put their minds to it – whoever is or isn’t reshuffled. If Labour’s phony civil war comes to a peaceful end, they can get on with holding the Tories to account.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]


  • Comment Featured Owen Smith: Three leadership hustings is not enough – let’s have one in every UK region

    Owen Smith: Three leadership hustings is not enough – let’s have one in every UK region

    Owen Smith has today written to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to back a plan to hold “at least one” leadership hustings in each UK region.   Dear Jeremy, In less than two months’ time, Labour Party members and supporters will be casting their votes for who should be the next Leader of our Party. It’s the most important decision our Party will have taken in a generation and will define our future as an effective opposition and party of government.   I […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News McDonnell in dramatic TV plea to warring factions to “stop this now”

    McDonnell in dramatic TV plea to warring factions to “stop this now”

    John McDonnell today claimed a small group of people are willing to “destroy” Labour simply to remove Jeremy Corbyn and made a dramatic appeal direct to MPs and members to bring an end to the in-fighting. The shadow Chancellor sounded emotional as he demanded “stop this now” as the Labour leadership faced questions over allegations one of their staff had made an “unauthorised” entry into the office of a former shadow Cabinet minister. McDonnell, who was appearing on the Andrew Marr […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Seema Malhotra accuses Corbyn aide over office entry

    Seema Malhotra accuses Corbyn aide over office entry

    A former shadow Cabinet minister has accused aides to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell of violating her security by making an “unauthorised” entry into her office. Seema Malhotra has demanded Commons officials launch an investigation after accusing the leader’s staff of effectively breaking into her office and claimed her own researchers had suffered “harassment”. Malhotra, who resigned as shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury last month, has written to John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, saying the entry undermined the […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn condemns abuse as 40 female MPs demand action over “disgusting” incidents

    Corbyn condemns abuse as 40 female MPs demand action over “disgusting” incidents

    Jeremy Corbyn will today confront claims of abuse in the Labour Party as he uses a series of events around Britain to appeal to left-wing voters to help him retain the leadership and deliver a “social movement”. Corbyn, who has faced claims that he has done too little to tackle personal abuse in the party, will repeat his condemnation of harassment and threats after more than 40 female Labour MPs wrote to him demanding he take action to tackle an “extremely worrying […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe The EU referendum showed that UKIP is now the biggest threat to Labour

    The EU referendum showed that UKIP is now the biggest threat to Labour

    For a long time now commentators and Labour figures have regularly remarked on the growing cultural and political distance between the Labour Party and the core Labour vote, particularly outside London. This fact was clearly demonstrated in the EU referendum, where Labour heartlands overwhelmingly rejected Labour’s stance on EU membership and all things associated with it.  This should serve as an immediate and urgent wake up call to the Labour Party. During the referendum campaign I served as General Secretary of […]

    Read more →

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends