Jeremy Corbyn has likened his frontbench reshuffle to “a multidimensional game of chess”, speaking for the first time since completing the three-day reorganisation of his top team.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post on Thursday, the Labour leader said of the process: “You start off with a chessboard and that’s fine, then you realise you’re playing a game on a parallel board as well and then you suddenly find there’s a third board down the way.
“Because if you move someone from department A to department B, that creates a vacancy in A, which you might need to fill with somebody from C, that then creates a vacancy in E, and by the way somebody in group G is very upset with the job they’ve got and wants to move somewhere else,” he told the paper.
Jonathan Reynolds, Stephen Doughty and Kevan Jones resigned in quick succession on Wednesday after it was announced that two frontbenchers were to be sacked for disloyalty and a third moved to clear the way for Labour to oppose the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons.
Pro-Trident Maria Eagle was replaced as shadow defence secretary by Emily Thornberry, who shares the leader’s opposition to renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
“My great failing in life is to listen to everybody at whatever great length they wish to speak to me,” said Corbyn.
“And this building is full of people who speak at great length on lots of things, so I sat in my office until midnight for two nights running to go through all of this and we finally completed all the appointments last night by a series of text messages whilst I was on the platform at a huge rally in support of legal aid.
“I finally signed it off just before I had to speak and pressed send. By text. It was very modern.” Corbyn added: “You get lovely texts back and that’s nice.”
After the first two days of negotiations, Corbyn avoided a mass shadow cabinet walkout of up to 10 MPs after he reached an agreement to keep Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, in his post in return for an end to public dissent over policy.
“I’ve had lots of conversations with Hilary Benn and we get on fine,” said Corbyn. “Hilary and I did not agree on Syria, that was very obvious. We have had a long discussion about how we approach foreign policy issues. We are not in hugely different places.
“I’ve now got more staff in place to be able to help that liaison process. I want to see Britain’s contribution to international affairs being one of not necessarily intervention, but one of democracy, human rights and political process which is why the emphasis I made on the Syria debate was about a political outcome in Syria.”
On Thursday morning, Corbyn announced the appointment of six new shadow ministers, three of whom will fill the roles left by those who resigned.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Thursday 7th January 2016 16.49 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010