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Corbyn continues Labour reshuffle after 'change in attitude' since re-election

Published 10/10/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will hope the appointments offer a chance to steady the ship
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will hope the appointments offer a chance to steady the ship

Jeremy Corbyn was continuing his reshuffle of Labour's frontbench team as predecessor Ed Miliband claimed there was now an "acceptance" of his leadership.

The former Labour leader said there had been a change of attitude among MPs about Mr Corbyn following his re-election, despite the resignation of two whips following the sacking of their boss, Dame Rosie Winterton.

A series of senior MPs who quit in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership have returned to the fold, although the leader's office appeared unaware that one of the so-called rebels had never actually resigned from the front bench in the first place.

Mr Corbyn's office briefed that Louise Haigh was one of those returning to the front bench, even though she had never left her shadow ministerial role.

Ms Haigh, who has moved from being a shadow Cabinet Office minister to a post in Tom Watson's shadow culture, media and sport team, had even been sent a letter from Mr Corbyn thanking her for staying on the front bench after the wave of resignations which saw scores of senior MPs depart in June.

A source in Mr Corbyn's camp acknowledged she had not resigned but "she backed no confidence" when Labour MPs voted by 172 to 40 to say they had no confidence in the leader.

The blunder was branded "absolutely ridiculous" by one Labour insider, while another labelled Mr Corbyn's camp "idiots" for the mistake.

But Mr Miliband backed Mr Corbyn and said Labour could "absolutely" win a general election under him, just weeks after supporting Owen Smith for the leadership because he wanted someone who could make the party a "serious alternative government".

He acknowledged there would not be "constant peace" within the Labour ranks, but claimed the mood had shifted.

The former leader revealed he was not invited "formally" to serve on Mr Corbyn's front bench and said he has "made clear for some time" that he is currently content on the back benches.

Asked if Labour could win an election under Mr Corbyn, Mr Miliband told BBC Two's Victoria Derbyshire show: "Absolutely, absolutely.

"Look, he got re-elected by our party, we've got more members than I think we've had in 40 or 50 years, he has mobilised party members and people who weren't party members in a way that even I didn't do so.

"Now the task is for all of us to take this out to the country and convince the country.

"And I think there has been a change in terms of attitude and will among the parliamentary party since Jeremy's re-election; I think there's an acceptance that he won, an acceptance that people have got to work with him and support him.

"It doesn't mean there won't be disagreements, it doesn't mean that there will be constant peace, but it does mean there's a sense that we've got to focus on the country not the party."

Press Association analysis suggests that more than a quarter of the 63 MPs who quit have now returned to frontbench roles, either in the shadow cabinet or more junior positions.

Some 17 have so far been confirmed in new positions: Jack Dromey, Pat Glass, Emma Lewell-Buck, Sharon Hodgson, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Paul Blomfield, Kevin Brennan, Jenny Chapman, Matthew Pennycook, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Keir Starmer, John Healey, Nia Griffith, Barbara Keeley, Jonathan Reynolds, Andrew Gwynne and Sarah Champion - who returned to the front bench in July.

Sheffield Central MP Mr Blomfield, who quit as a shadow ministerial aide, had his surname misspelled "Bloomfield" in the Labour announcement of his appointment to the shadow Brexit team.

But Mr Corbyn was hit by two further resignations on Sunday as whips Conor McGinn and Holly Lynch quit.

Their resignations followed the controversial sacking of chief whip Dame Rosie, who was replaced by Nick Brown.

Further appointments to shadow ministerial roles are expected later as MPs return to Westminster following the conference break.

Press Association

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