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Labour leadership revolt MP returns to front bench

Published 25/07/2016

Labour general secretary Iain McNicol said abuse during the party's leadership election will not be tolerated and those involved face losing their vote
Labour general secretary Iain McNicol said abuse during the party's leadership election will not be tolerated and those involved face losing their vote

A senior Labour MP who quit as a shadow minister because Jeremy Corbyn's position was "untenable" has returned to the front bench after asking the leader for her old job back.

Sarah Champion, who suggested Labour was "doomed" if it did not unite when she quit in June, was among scores of frontbenchers to resign in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership.

Mr Corbyn accepted the Rotherham MP's request to return to her post and a spokesman for the leader urged others who resigned in the revolt to come back to the shadow ministerial team in order to oppose the Government.

Ms Champion has returned to her post as a shadow home office minister, focusing on women, equality and domestic violence issues.

She q uit on June 28, saying: "I can only do what I feel is right, even though it's breaking my heart."

In a series of messages on Twitter she said Mr Corbyn's position was untenable and warned: "If we're not united, we're doomed."

Ms Champion said Mr Corbyn's refusal to accept a motion of no confidence, backed by 172 of the party's MPs, showed why his leadership could not continue.

She said: "I can assure you I've not joined any coup, I just think Jeremy's position is no longer tenable if we're to be effective."

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn encouraged other senior Labour MPs who quit as part of the rebellion to come back to the front bench.

"There's always work to be done. We hope that others will rejoin the shadow cabinet and get on with the job of opposing the Government," the spokesman said.

Mr Corbyn faces a leadership challenge from former shadow cabinet minister Owen Smith, who was nominated by 162 MPs - more than 70% of Labour's representation in the Commons.

In an attempt to calm the tensions within the party, Labour's general secretary has warned a busive Labour supporters they will be stripped of their leadership contest vote.

Iain McNicol warned there is "simply too much" abuse, intimidation and shouting down of members taking place online and at meetings.

He recognised condemnation of such "appalling behaviour" from Mr Corbyn and Mr Smith, among others, but added such comments are "meaningless unless they are backed up by action".

Members responsible for abuse will also be investigated and could be suspended while this work takes place, Mr McNicol added.

His warning came as Mr Smith said Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell's aides breached parliamentary privilege if they entered a Labour MP's House of Commons office without permission.

Mr Smith described Seema Malhotra's claim as an "internal little spat" but said staffers should not have entered the former shadow minister's office without her permission.

The leadership contest is set to intensify throughout the summer, with the level of interest in the outcome being demonstrated by the huge number of people who paid the £25 required to become registered members with a vote in the contest.

More than 183,000 people paid the fee during the 48-hour window for such applications last week.

Outlining the behaviour expected of members, Mr M cNicol said: "F or a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. They shouldn't be shouted down, they shouldn't be intimidated and they shouldn't be abused, either in meetings or online.

"Put plainly, there is simply too much of it taking place and it needs to stop."

Ms Malhotra, a former shadow Treasury minister, has lodged a formal complaint with Speaker John Bercow, claiming staff working for Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell entered her office in a serious breach of parliamentary privilege.

But Mr McDonnell said the office manager concerned had simply been checking whether Ms Malhotra had moved out of the office after quitting the front bench last month in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership.

And a spokesman for Mr Corbyn played down the incident and said claims of intimidation are "untrue".

Commenting on the party's latest row, Mr Smith told BBC Radio London: " Obviously people shouldn't be going into MPs' offices, obviously that's abuse of parliamentary privilege.

"But I don't know enough about the details."

A poll of Labour councillors in the 250 most marginal parliamentary constituencies showed that the majority (60%) were backing Mr Smith for the leadership, with 28% preferring Mr Corbyn.

An even higher majority (65%) thought Mr Smith gives them the best chance of winning their constituency at the next general election, compared with 23% who think it is best to stick with Mr Corbyn, the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University found.

Despite their preference for Mr Smith, most of the councillors (38%) believed the majority of local members will vote for Mr Corbyn, compared to 28% for Mr Smith, and 53% thought the majority of locally registered supporters would back the incumbent over 10% for Mr Smith.

The unit polled 350 Labour councillors across the 250 most marginal parliamentary constituencies in the UK - the 125 seats Labour won and the 125 seats Labour lost by the lowest margins in the 2015 general election.

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