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Labour remains in deadlock over shadow cabinet issue

Published 20/09/2016

Labour leadership challengers Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Owen Smith.
Labour leadership challengers Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Owen Smith.

Labour remains in deadlock after more than eight hours of discussion failed to resolve how the party would form its shadow cabinet.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn did not respond to questions from reporters as members of his party eventually emerged from the national executive committee (NEC) meeting at 8.30pm.

But other senior figures in the party insisted the meeting, which began at noon, was positive.

The NEC failed to reach a consensus on how its shadow cabinet would be formed, despite the lengthy talks.

Deputy leader Tom Watson had proposed allowing MPs to elect other MPs onto the party's shadow cabinet.

But Mr Corbyn does not have great support among the parliamentary party, and had instead proposed allowing ordinary members to have a say on shadow cabinet elections.

A motion from Mr Watson to make a decision on the finer details of the plan ahead of Saturday's leadership election result was voted down, by 16 votes to 15.

Mr Corbyn was among those to vote against it, but did agree to further talks with Mr Watson and other senior figures before the next NEC meeting this weekend, at the party's conference in Liverpool.

Mr Watson said afterwards: "I'm very pleased. We had a very positive meeting.

"We have talks arranged to try and bring the PLP back together, reporting back to our national executive committee on Saturday.

"We agreed 22 changes to our rules and guidance, all sorts of positive things I'm sure the media will be really interested in.

"It was a very positive meeting and a very long meeting, so I'm now going for something to eat."

Jon Trickett, NEC member and shadow business secretary, also called it "a very positive meeting".

He added: "We agreed to continue conversations. It's important that after this election for a new leader we reunite, because the Tories are doing awful things to our country and we intend to drive forward.

"It was a positive and productive conversation. The NEC meets on Saturday and we'll have further discussions at that point.

"There was a very fine decision to be taken, a very closely argued case which was made on both sides.

"In fact, when you looked at the resolution that was in front of us - which was voted on - actually there wasn't a huge difference between us.

"Both sides of the argument felt we'd come to a better understanding of each other.

"It felt like it was a turning point for the whole party and I'm very confident now that we can reunite."

The NEC did agree to have two new members with full voting rights from the Scottish and Welsh executives, a move welcomed by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

She said afterwards: "It's a substantial change, we'll have our own say over policy, we'll have a say over our Westminster selections, but crucially we're still committed to being part of the wider UK family.

"It's big news for Scottish Labour."

She also insisted the lack of progress over shadow cabinet elections was a good thing, adding: "When it comes to things like shadow cabinet, I think this is good news - because there is a strong sense around the NEC and a desire for party unity, to get on the front foot going into Liverpool this weekend.

"The key players in this are going to take some time out over the next few days, they're going to work out what they think is the best solution."

The NEC also agreed that all new Labour members will have to sign up to an online code of conduct amid mounting allegations of abuse.

The executive unanimously backed the new code of conduct, according to the Guardian, but it will need approval at the party's conference this weekend.

In a joint statement, Mr Watson and Labour former cabinet member Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Reclaim the Internet campaign, said: "This new pledge will mean every Labour member is making an active commitment to the values of decency and respect for others, both on and offline.

"We have a problem, we need to be clearer about our values and about the standards acceptable in the Labour Party - and this is an important step in doing so.

"When you're signing up to the aims and values of the Labour Party, being against abuse and behaving in a comradely manner is implicit. But with what we have seen in recent months, we think this commitment should now be explicit.

"We have a responsibility in the Labour Party to lead the way because we have always stood for something better.

"At a time when far right abuse is increasing, and online hatred, racism and misogyny is silencing people from speaking out, the Labour movement needs to stand up for people against intimidation and bullying just as we have always done throughout our history. But we can't do that if some in our own party get sucked in as well.

"We need to urgently restore decency to political debate - the lack of it threatens our democracy. Our members join the Labour Party to stand up against injustice and abuse - this pledge makes clear that this is at the heart of all of our politics and our party debates too."

It came on the same day Labour MP Ruth Smeeth spoke out on the extensive abuse she had suffered since becoming an MP last year.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, the Stoke on Trent MP said she had experienced more than 25,000 examples of abuse.

As a result two people are being investigated by counter-terrorism police - one of whom penned a 1,000-word essay on how he would kill her.

Ms Smeeth said she resented being defined as "the Jewish MP", adding: "I am an MP who happens to be Jewish.

"One of the things that makes me most angry about this whole thing is that I've ended up as the Jewish MP.

"Worse: a victim and a target. I should be the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, a hard-working, life-long member of the Labour Party.

"I've never seen anti-Semitism in Labour on this scale. There were one or two incidents before and the reason why they were so shocking is that there were only one or two. Now the sheer volume of it has made it normal."

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