Junior Labour MPs in line for promotion after Corbyn ally quits frontbench

Jeremy Corbyn is expected to announce a series of junior appointments to his frontbench team on Friday after the Derby North MP, Chris Williamson, resigned as shadow fire minister.

Williamson, who is an ardent supporter of the Labour leader, told the Huffington Post that council tax should be doubled on higher-value homes.

The interview, the latest in a series of controversial pronouncements by Williamson, strayed outside his brief and did not reflect party policy.

But it was immediately seized on by the Conservatives, who used an image of Williamson, with the slogan, “I want to double your council tax”, in an online attack ad.

Labour sources said the shadow communities and local government secretary, Andrew Gwynne, was furious. He had not been warned of the article.

In a statement, Gwynne said: “This proposal is not our policy and it won’t be. Unlike this proposal, we recognise that each council area has a different ability to raise income locally and so we will look at that as part of a fair redistribution mechanism, linking social need, health inequality, urban deprivation and rural sparsity.”

It is understood that when the issue was raised with Williamson, rather than agree to confine his public statements to his own policy area, he decided to resign. He is expected to act as a leftwing outrider for the Labour leader from the backbenches.

Williamson said: “I’ve taken this decision to bring me closer to the membership of our party and to allow me to work on a broader range of issues, from environmental policy to animal rights and local government.”

Corbyn said: “I am grateful for Chris’s work on the frontbench, particularly on fire safety following the appalling Grenfell Tower fire. I know that on the backbenches Chris will be a strong campaigner on a range of crucial issues as well as serving his constituents with dedication.”

Williamson, who won the Derby North seat in last year’s general election, having previously held it from 2010 to 2015, was ridiculed by fellow Labour MPs for calling for women-only train carriages. One colleague pinned a notice to his office door saying: “Woman? Sexually harassed at work? Why not consider working on your own floor?”

He has also appeared to suggest MPs critical of Corbyn’s leadership should be deselected, speaking of “interest groups and individual MPs in this party who think it’s their God-given right to rule”.

Labour’s leadership team are keen to avoid providing political ammunition to the Tories, particularly on economic issues, where the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, wants to exert discipline on tax and spending pledges.

Corbyn is expected to announce a series of junior appointments – below the level of shadow cabinet – including a replacement for Alex Cunningham, who resigned before Christmas after voting against the party whip on Brexit.

Labour is also expected to take the opportunity to promote some of the MPs who joined the Commons in 2017, such as Laura Pidcock and Dan Carden. Some junior shadow ministers have requested a move to new policy areas.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Heather Stewart Political editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 11th January 2018 15.35 Europe/London

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