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Jeremy Corbyn makes more appointments to Labour's front bench

Published 14/01/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could face another shadow cabinet split over the timing of his party's Trident recommendations
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could face another shadow cabinet split over the timing of his party's Trident recommendations

Jeremy Corbyn has made further appointments to expand Labour's frontbench team following last week's reshuffle.

Among the new shadow ministers is Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, who recently announced her return to Parliament following successful treatment for breast cancer and will take up a post shadowing the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Ms Debbonaire is one of three MPs first elected in May 2015 to be given jobs, alongside Imran Hussein (Bradford East), who takes an international development brief, and Kate Os amor (Edmonton), who becomes shadow minister for women and equalities.

Dave Anderson, who has been MP for Blaydon since 2005, joins the Labour whips' office.

Corbyn aides said the appointments were to new roles, and were not part of the reshuffle, which saw two critics of the leader sacked and four shadow ministers resign.

Former shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt - who refused to serve on Mr Corbyn's front bench - denounced the reshuffle as "divisive and futile" and said it had distracted attention from Labour campaigns on flooding, Europe and housing.

"You will recall that Europe spokesman Pat McFadden was sacked for suggesting that terrorists should be held accountable for their crimes. Shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle was moved for supporting Labour Party policy. And culture minister Michael Dugher got the axe for not living in Islington," Mr Hunt wrote in The Spectator.

The appointments came as it was suggested that a potentially divisive review of Labour's policy on Trident could report within weeks.

Close Corbyn ally Ken Livingstone, who is co-chairing a review of the party's defence policy, said sections of the work relating to the nuclear deterrent could be completed in "eight to 10 weeks".

This would allow any recommendation for change in the party's stance to be published before David Cameron calls a Commons vote on a new generation of submarines to carry the nuclear missiles.

However, changing the official party policy would take longer, with the annual conference in September required to ratify a new position - something that could provoke a split in the shadow cabinet and would be opposed by several major trade unions, which fear job losses from the cancellation of Trident renewal.

Labour's policy is still officially in favour of maintaining the nuclear deterrent with submarines deployed around the clock able to launch a strike, but Mr Corbyn is committed to scrapping Trident.

As part of his reshuffle, Trident opponent Emily Thornberry was appointed shadow defence secretary and co-chairwoman of the review, in place of pro-renewal Maria Eagle.

Mr Livingstone told BBC2's Newsnight: "We will desperately try and do it as rapidly as possible. So we will focus on the Trident issue ahead of the rest of the defence review.

"With a bit of luck that can be done in eight to 10 weeks.

"It will take a lot of work for me and Emily, but that's good."

Former home secretary Alan Johnson said Labour must avoid another split, telling Newsnight: "One thing's for sure, we can't have two different positions."

He added: "I'm pro-Trident. I'm pro-nuclear disarmament through multilateral disarmament. I think everyone is looking for nuclear disarmament, it's the best way to get there."

Labour MP John Woodcock, whose Barrow and Furness seat includes the boatyards where the new submarines would be built, said the party should not "tear ourselves apart" over a project which was "going to happen anyway".

"There is a cast-iron majority in Parliament for this project to go past the point of no return," said Mr Woodcock.

"So no matter what Jeremy does, or even if he were to magic up a changed policy - which he won't - it's not going to make a difference to the fact that these submarines are going to be renewed."

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