UPDATED: 5.34pm, Monday 27 June.
Following a weekend of resignation, after resignation, Corbyn appears not to be sitting on his laurels as, early Monday morning, he began releasing details of his new shadow cabinet.
What began with the sacking of Hilary Benn, from his position as shadow foreign secretary in the early hours of Sunday morning, has quickly escalated. The majority of the Labour front bench collapsed, with 12 of the shadow cabinet resigning on Sunday and a further ten shadow ministers and four shadow secretaries of state leaving before Monday lunchtime – including Lisa Nandy and Owen Smith, who called for Corbyn to resign and Tom Watson to become “caretaker” leader, and Angela Eagle, shadow first secretary of state.
John Healey also resigned as shadow housing minister shortly before 12.30 along with Nia Griffiths, shadow Welsh secretary. Maria Eagle, shadow secretary of state for culture, quit the role just before 12.50 on Monday. Following her, Kate Green announced her intention to step down at 1.05pm.
Just after 1.30pm Nick Thomas-Symonds announced that he had resigned as a shadow employment minister, and at 2.25pm Luciana Berger resigned as shadow cabinet minister for mental health. At 4.40pm Keir Starmer resigned as shadow immigration minister. At 5.30pm Jack Dromey resigned as shadow policing minister.
Prominent figures to leave includes Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, who, somewhat bizarrely tweeted:
Seems slightly highfalutin to resign as I was just the PPS in the Education Team but it was Lucy who asked me, she is gone. So am I.
— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) June 27, 2016
Steve Reed MP walked out as shadow local government minister, stating that:
A majority of Labour supporters in large parts of the north and Midlands voted to leave the EU because their connection with our party has broken. We are losing touch with them, a process which has been underway for some time but has speeded up under your leadership.
“Some time” is a wholly unquantifiable statement from Reed and, as The Canary reported yesterday, the tumultuous events we have witnessed last week have been decades in the making.
Some shadow cabinet ministers went even further, with Neil Coyle (who had nominated Corbyn in the leadership election) resigning live on Sky News:
Neil Coyle resigns as Labour PPS on Sky News https://t.co/5xUCH7iIVh
— Zoe Catchpole (@mazoe) June 27, 2016
Rumours are running amok surrounding just why these resignations have been seen en masse; from Corbyn’s alleged failure over the party’s remain campaign, to his stance on the Chilcot report into the Iraq war; however Sky News’ Sophie Ridge appeared to have another theory:
I'm told the Labour MP co-ordinating & choreographing the resignations is @ConorMcGinn – significant as he's in Jeremy Corbyn's Whips Office
— Sophy Ridge (@SophyRidgeSky) June 27, 2016
Ridge said that:
He’s ringing shadow cabinet members and ministers, organising the timings and co-ordinating the resignations to try to cause maximum impact. This is significant because he’s one of Jeremy Corbyn’s Whips – tasked with ensuring party discipline.
This would seem the most plausible answer. McGinn was appointed chair of the Young Fabians in 2002, and is still active in the society. Out of the shadow cabinet resignations, 15 of them are supporters of, or involved with this faction of the party. Of the shadow ministers that have resigned, nine are Fabians. And of course, Margaret Hodge, who co-penned the no-confidence motion, is vice president of the society. Take into account, also, Fabian journalists like Polly Toynbee calling Corbyn “dismal, spineless and lifeless” – and you may have your “committee of war”. Furthermore, former prospective parliamentary candidate and Fabian Will Straw called for Corbyn’s resignation – in his position as director of “Britian Stronger in Europe”.
However, if Corbyn was feeling threatened and backed into a corner by the mass-mutiny, it didn’t show.
He quickly moved to replace all those who had jumped ship, and the new shadow cabinet is, presently, as follows:
- Shadow foreign secretary – Emily Thornberry (MP for Islington South and Finsbury)
- Shadow health secretary – Diane Abbott (MP for Hackney)
- Shadow education secretary – Pat Glass (MP for North West Durham)
- Shadow transport secretary – Andy McDonald (MP for Middlesbrough)
- Shadow defence secretary – Clive Lewis (MP for Norwich South)
- Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury – Rebecca Long-Bailey (MP for Salford and Eccles)
- Shadow international development secretary – Kate Osamor (MP for Edmonton)
- Shadow environment food and rural affairs secretary – Rachel Maskell (MP for York Central)
- Shadow voter engagement and youth affairs – Cat Smith (MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood)
- Shadow Northern Ireland secretary – Dave Anderson (MP for Blaydon)
There are numerous interesting connotations that can be drawn from these appointments.
Firstly, four of these MPs (Lewis, Long-Bailey, Osamor and Smith) are “rookies” from the 2015 general election. Experience in parliament may not always trump that garnered in life – Clive Lewis, for example, passed through military training academy Sandhurst as an infantry officer in the Territorial Army, serving in Afghanistan for three months. However, those who are wanting to see Corbyn removed will surely cite the fact these “freshers” have been promoted too quickly.
Corbyn has also placed people around him who nominated him to be on the leadership ballot last year, meaning that a third of the Shadow front bench are now “comrades”.
Both Kate Osamor and Cat Smith came out vocally at the weekend on social media in support of Corbyn:
Labour Party needs to unite behind our leader.We cannot descend into infighting at this critical stage. Lets bring the fight to the tories
— Kate Osamor MP (@KateOsamor) June 26, 2016
Labour is a democratic socialist party whose members democratically elected Jeremy Corbyn less than a year ago. MPs should respect that.
— Cat Smith (@CatSmithMP) June 26, 2016
The Labour party now has a leader, chancellor and shadow foreign and defence secretaries who all support the scrapping of Trident – a quadrant which is certainly at odds with the majority of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP).
With the PLP set to meet Monday evening and a formal no-confidence motion waiting to be discussed, by shoring up his shadow cabinet with allies and vocal supporters, Corbyn has sent a very clear message to his detractors.
At present, Corbyn appears to be going no-where, which to factions within the PLP will most likely be infuriating.
But to the 200,000 people who have signed the “Vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn” petition, it will be music to their ears.
Sign the petition of support for Jeremy Corbyn, if you agree.
Featured Image via Flickr/Global Justice Now