The shadow culture secretary, Michael Dugher, one of those believed to be at risk in the impending reorganisation, told BBC 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics programme that previous Labour leaders he had worked closely with had been reluctant to “go down the path of big reshuffles”.
“They do try and hold the party together, they do recognise that the Labour party is a broad church, not a religious cult, that you need people of different backgrounds and try and get the best possible talents,” Dugher said, adding that “ultimately [the makeup of the shadow cabinet] will be a decision for Jeremy”.
Corbyn is reportedly ready to offer the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, and the shadow defence secretary, Maria Eagle, a move to other posts in a high-risk reshuffle aimed at ensuring that his top team speaks with one voice on foreign and defence matters.
Eleven of the 28 members of the shadow cabinet, including Benn and Eagle, voted in favour of extending airstrikes against Islamic State to Syria, a move Corbyn strongly opposed. Eagle also supports the renewal of Trident, which will be voted on in parliament in the spring.
The reshuffle, expected in the coming weeks, could deepen rifts in the party, particularly as Corbyn began his leadership by promising to allow everyone on the front bench the freedom to express differing views.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Benn could be replaced by Emily Thornberry, the MP for Islington South and Finsbury, the neighbouring constituency to Corbyn’s. Thornberry was forced to resign from the shadow cabinet during the 2014 byelection in Rochester and Strood, when she was accused of snobbery after tweeting a photograph of a house adorned with St George’s cross flags with a white van parked outside.
Dugher said he did not expect the predicted big reshuffle to happen. “The reason I don’t see it happening is because I think it would be inconsistent with what Jeremy has talked about since he got the leadership, which is about … having debate,” he said.
Of the rumoured reshuffle, he added: “These things are always discussed, you get sometimes over-enthusiastic aides sort of nudging a leader in one particular direction. There’s always ambitious colleagues that sort of spy that golden opportunity to be the shadow secretary of state for paper clips.”
The shadow transport secretary, Lilian Greenwood, told Sky News’ Murnaghan that the party should “get on with holding the government to account rather than talking about internal Labour party matters”.
“Jeremy will set out his thoughts over the next days and weeks, I imagine,” she said. Asked if she thought Benn was doing a good job, she said: “I think all my colleagues are doing a good job … we want to be holding the government to account over their decisions and we have seen a number of them doing that over the Christmas break.”
Writing in the Observer, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Philips, said current Labour party thinking was like “a drunk game of Boggle”.
“The new politics seem to be anything but new,” she said. “As for straight-talking and honest, they’re neither. The same old leaking and briefing happens and politicians get tied up, in ‘not not’ answers: ‘There is not not a reshuffle’; ‘I don’t not support the leader’; ‘it’s not, not a free vote, it’s a sort of half free vote, but not free in terms of no costs or consequences, you know the other sort of free’.
“If Jeremy wants to get discipline through scare stories on reshuffles, I’d much rather he was straight-talking. If I were him I would stand up in the first PLP meeting of 2016 and bellow: ‘All of you, pack it in! Let’s stop bleeding moaning like a child who got clothes instead of an Xbox at Christmas and crack on with changing the sodding world.’”
Also writing in the paper, Stephen Kinnock, the MP for Aberavon, said the party should not to engage in “chatter about splits and reshuffles” as it “rapidly becomes little more than noises-off”. “Let’s not go there,” he said.
“The parliamentary Labour party must accept the fact that Jeremy was elected with a thumping mandate, and that he needs time and space to establish himself,” he said. “While party members have to understand that MPs are representatives, not delegates, we were elected to serve our constituents on the basis of our manifesto, not via random straw polls, or through who’s shouting loudest on Twitter this week.
“The day that we start crowdsourcing the whip is the day that we cease to exist as a serious political party.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Sunday 3rd January 2016 13.36 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010