Jeremy Corbyn’s critics back away from bid to elect shadow cabinet

Jeremy Corbyn will not face an immediate challenge to his authority if he wins the Labour leadership election after his opponents in the party backed down from pushing for a return to shadow cabinet elections.

Some of Corbyn’s critics have been mulling the idea in the belief that they could better keep him under control if his shadow cabinet were to be elected by the parliamentary party, where he does not have the support of many MPs.

At a crucial meeting of the parliamentary party on Monday night, several Labour MPs, including Barry Sheerman, spoke in favour of a return to such an electoral system, which was abolished by former leader Ed Miliband.

However, Diane Abbott – a supporter of Corbyn – and at least two other MPs, spoke against such a move, suggesting those advocating a return to shadow cabinet elections had ulterior motives.

It also emerged last week that trying to reintroduce shadow cabinet elections would require the agreement of the party conference as well as two-thirds of Labour MPs, making it much more difficult to achieve.

In the end, none of those in favour of elections laid a motion, meaning there will be not be a vote at next week’s meeting. It will be the first to be chaired by whoever is selected as the party’s new leader on Saturday.

It is the latest sign that opponents of Corbyn have all but given up on mounting any immediate challenge to his authority if he is elected leader.

MPs from the modernising wing of the party, including Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt, have called on colleagues to accept the result and embrace unity if Corbyn wins.

The rival leadership campaigns have all ruled out legal attempts to challenge the results of the contest if they lose.

There were reports on Monday that one of the leadership camps was calling for a delay to the result being announced because of evidence that hundreds or even thousands of eligible voters have not yet received their ballot papers.

But Labour has said it has no plans to delay Saturday’s announcement of its new party leader. The deadline for votes to be cast in the leadership election is Thursday lunchtime.

The campaign teams of the leadership candidates Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham have denied they are calling for a delay, but both acknowledge there has been a problem with ballot papers being sent out.

A senior figure in one camp said: “We clearly need to know what the party will do if thousands have genuinely been deprived of a ballot paper.”

But he added: “It is very doubtful – I would say impossible – for the party to delay the special conference due to be held this weekend. The cost of the conference prohibits it.”

It is difficult to know precisely how many of those eligible to vote have not received their ballot paper, as some will have been excluded because they were not on the electoral roll or were debarred due to their previous support for another party.

Cooper’s camp briefed at the weekend that nearly half of the ballot papers had not been returned, but in any party internal election turnout is unlikely to exceed 70%. No one can be clear whether those who haven’t voted plan to abstain, have not made up their mind or have not received their ballot paper.

Many voters can vote online, but the Guardian has received reports from party members complaining they have not received a ballot paper and found it impossible to contact the Labour party or their union.

The party has massively increased the numbers working on the process of weeding out those ineligible to vote, moving to a 24/7 system. It has a hotline that party members and registered supporters can ring if they have not received a ballot paper.

All sides claim any delay would help their rivals. Corbyn’s supporters say they think a delay may help Cooper and would allow time to continue a purge of their number. More than 4,000 members have been purged in the crackdown.

Corbyn, who is due to hold a rally in the swing seat of Nuneaton on Tuesday, remains the frontrunner but Yvette Cooper’s camp claim she is gaining ground.

Meanwhile, Andy Burnham’s campaign maintains he is the only candidate who can beat Corbyn, tweeting that the race was “v close” and his team was planning to call 10,000 undecided voters in 72 hours.

Liz Kendall, the fourth candidate, hit the phones on Monday lunchtime, calling members to make sure they vote before the deadline.

Powered by article was written by Rowena Mason and Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Monday 7th September 2015 20.50 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010