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Jeremy Corbyn holds talks with shadow cabinet members on reshuffle

Published 04/01/2016

Labour MPs have warned Jeremy Corbyn against a 'punishment purge' of his top team
Labour MPs have warned Jeremy Corbyn against a 'punishment purge' of his top team

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to finalise a reshuffle of his top team on Tuesday after late-night talks with key members of the shadow cabinet ended without any announcement.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said the leader had "several discussions in relation to changes to the shadow cabinet" but would not give any details of who, if anyone, was being moved or sacked.

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn and shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, two of those whose positions have been considered in doubt, remained tight-lipped as they left the leader's suite of Westminster offices.

The talks followed speculation of a possible "purge" of those with views at odds with the leader, such as Mr Benn's Commons speech in favour of RAF air strikes in Syria and Ms Eagle's support for the renewal of the UK's Trident nuclear deterrent.

Another nine shadow cabinet members voted for air strikes after the leader was forced to allow a free vote - fuelling suggestions he could replace them with left-wing supporters.

But the scope of the changes appeared increasingly likely to end up narrower than mooted, as the leadership sought to balance the desire for a coherent message on the front bench with the major backlash in the parliamentary party that would great any move to freeze out moderates.

Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott denied she was being lined up to replace Mr Benn, branding the rumours "poppycock and piffle".

Staunch Corbyn supporter Clive Lewis also said he did not want to succeed Ms Eagle, although he stopped short of ruling it out altogether.

Shadow cabinet minister Michael Dugher, whose own place is reported to be in jeopardy, has warned Mr Corbyn would end up with a "politburo of seven" at the top of the party if he attempted to surround himself with allies from the Labour left.

It came as Harriet Harman - who led the party during the contest that saw Mr Corbyn emerge as the surprise successor to Ed Miliband - renewed calls for party rules to be changed "to stop there being an all-male leadership".

In September, Tom Watson was elected deputy to Mr Corbyn, who was accused of failing to put sufficient female MPs into the most prominent positions in his shadow cabinet despite having a 50/50 split overall.

Ms Harman told BBC2's Newsnight: "Women's rights are never going to be taken forward by men in the party whether they're men on the left of the party, men on the centre or men on the right.

"Women in this country expect to see men and women working together on equal terms, that's what the Labour Party believes in and we can't have an all-male leadership again and therefore we'll have to change the rules."

Labour MP Jess Philips accused Mr Corbyn of "low-level, non-violent misogyny" - and said "very left-wing feminists" in the party were putting up with it.

"Had Tony Blair not given any of top jobs to a woman, had that same make-up of his team existed, people would rightly have been up in arms.

"But it's sort of a bit like some people in the Labour Party are accepting sort of low-level, non-violent misogyny because it's Jeremy doing it."

She said she would consider a shot at the leadership "a long time in the future."

"It's not something I'm planning on doing any time soon."

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