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Labour MP Clive Betts calls for return of shadow cabinet elections

Published 02/09/2016

Clive Betts said he wanted the Parliamentary Labour Party to work together
Clive Betts said he wanted the Parliamentary Labour Party to work together

Jeremy Corbyn is set to face a fresh challenge to his authority as an MP put forward a motion calling for elections to the shadow cabinet to be reintroduced.

The motion, proposed by Clive Betts the Labour MP for Sheffield South East, is set to be debated by the parliamentary party on Monday.

Mr Betts dismissed claims the suggestion was a bid to "hobble" Mr Corbyn's leadership and told BBC's Newsnight that it will help to unify the party.

He said: "My motion talks about unity, getting the whole of the Parliamentary Labour Party, including the leader of the shadow cabinet, working together.

"In recent weeks I've talked to my party members, but I've also talked to lots of Labour Party voters in my constituency, and they say one simple thing to me - 'for heaven's sake get your act together, start working in a united way down in Westminster, start being an effective opposition to this very right-wing Tory Government, we are fed up with you falling out amongst yourselves'.

"Now this is a pragmatic motion, a motion to try and help achieve that objective.

"Clearly only a few weeks ago we weren't working together, there were sackings from the shadow cabinet, resignations from the shadow cabinet, and whoever wins the leadership election we can't go back to that sort of situation."

The Labour Party has been plunged into turmoil in recent months, marred by mass resignations from the shadow cabinet and accusations of anti-Semitic, homophobic and sexist abuse.

But Mr Corbyn is widely expected to beat Owen Smith in the upcoming leadership contest.

It has been suggested that reintroducing shadow cabinet elections would allow the centre and so-called right wing of the party to wrest back control and challenge Mr Corbyn from inside the party.

But Mr Betts dismissed suggestions the motion is part of an anti-Corbyn plot and said it is designed to help heal divisions in the party by making both sides sit down and "work together".

He said: "The other spin on it that it is somehow part of the ongoing plot to curb Jeremy - if he does get back as leader, that isn't certain yet of course - that is absolutely ridiculous.

"This is my motion, I have put the motion down. I haven't been going around talking to people and plotting with people and trying to elicit support, I am simply tabling my colleagues to reflect on whether as MPs we don't have a responsibility to Labour voters to try to sort our problems out and try to start working together more effectively.

"That's my sole objective in this matter."

Labour shadow cabinet elections were abolished in 2011 when Ed Miliband was leader.

Mr Betts added: "I've been a member of the Labour Party for 47 years, I've been an MP for 24 years, what I feel very strongly is we need now party unity - that is what my party members are telling me, that's what my Labour Party voters in Sheffield is telling me."

Veteran Labour MP David Winnick backed Mr Betts' proposal as a means to ensuring the party can provide an "effective opposition" in Westminster, whoever wins the leadership contest.

The Walsall North MP, who is supporting Mr Smith's challenge for the leadership, told the Press Association: "What Clive Betts is trying to do, whatever the result of the election for leader, is a sensible move. There is a widespread sentiment not only among Labour activists, but party members - and even more so those who were members before the general election - for us to resolve difficulties which have arisen since Jeremy Corbyn was elected.

"It is most unlikely that Jeremy can lead us into victory whenever the election is called, but at the same time, the fact remains that we need to be an effective opposition in Westminster, bearing in mind the issues coming up."

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