POLITICS

Jeremy Corbyn 'Coherence' Reshuffle Set To Be Announced On Tuesday; More Women Set For Promotion

04/01/2016 23:59 GMT | Updated 05/01/2016 06:59 GMT
Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a fares protest at King's Cross Station, London, as the Government was accused of profiting from commuters as the annual hike in rail fares hits people returning to work.

Jeremy Corbyn is expected to confirm his Shadow Cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday amid continuing doubt over the role of key figures on his frontbench.

The Labour leader had an hour-long meeting in his Commons office on Monday night with Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn and a half-hour meeting with Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle.

Mr Corbyn is understood to want greater "coherence" on foreign and defence policy after damaging divisions over Syria and Trident of late, in order to allow him to focus on the unity within the Parliamentary party over domestic and economic policy.

But he is also keen to avoid further damage that could be triggered by moving Mr Benn, as well as Shadow Chief Whip Rosie Winterton. Ms Winterton is said to have warned the leader of a wider walkout if Mr Benn was fired.

Ms Eagle's future seems less certain, with suggestions that she will be moved following her decision on the Andrew Marr programme in November to back up Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nick Houghton's concerns about Mr Corbyn's anti-nuclear stance.

Mr Corbyn is set to appear in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon opposite David Cameron for the Prime Minister's statement on the December EU summit, and Mr Benn would normally be expected to sit alongside him in his current post.

Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher and Shadow Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer were being tipped for the axe for repeatedly challenging the leadership's line on a range of issues. Both are key allies of Andy Burnham and it is possible only one may be moved. Figures such as Emily Thornberry and Catherine McKinnell could be promoted.

Mr Benn had been expecting the sack for days and had the longest in a series of one-on-one meetings with the leader. He emerged smiling but refused to comment.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary - whose speech in the Syria debate last month triggered both praise and criticism within the party - was keen for other ministers not to quit in protest if he was fired, but was unlikely to accept a serious demotion for acting in line with his conscience on a free vote.

Ms Eagle's position was unclear too, although the party leadership is now determined to stage another email consultation with party members on the issue of Trident - as hinted by Mr Corbyn in his HuffPost UK interview - ahead of party conference next year.

Ms Winterton, whose position had assumed to have been safe following recent speculation, was claimed to have been spotted having a heated discussion with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in the middle of the reshuffle manoeuvres.

Sources close to Mr McDonnell denied there had been any "big bust up" and instead pointed out that he and the Shadow Chief Whip had ended the evening joking with each other.

None of the ministers who met Mr Corbyn commented on the outcome but a full list of the new team is expected on Tuesday.

It is possible all three of the big names touted for reshuffle will remain in place, although it appears that Mr Corbyn has insisted on greater unity over policy statements and acceptance of his huge mandate from party members on key issues of defence and foreign policy.

After hours of talks, a spokesman for the leadership told HuffPost UK: "Jeremy Corbyn has had several discussions today about changes to Shadow Cabinet. There will be an announcement in due course."

Allies of the leader stress that there is no desire for 'punishment' or 'revenge' over the Syria vote but that 'coherence' is the main aim as the party heads into a series of electoral tests in London, local elections, Scotland and Wales this spring.

There was speculation that Ms Winterton could lose her role chairing the boundary review of Parliamentary constituencies, a move that one insider said would amount to 'an act of war' greater than any reshuffle change, given the way some activists want to use the review to select more left-wing Parliamentary candidates.

Mr Corbyn is determined to appoint more women to senior posts, not least to counter the hasty reshuffle of September when his team failed to spot the impact of men in the post of leader, deputy leader, Shadow Chancellor, Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Angela Eagle, the Shadow Business Secretary, was given the extra title of Shadow First Secretary of State to allow her to stand in for Mr Corbyn at Prime Minister's Question Time.

Backbencher Jess Phillips accused the party leader on Newsnight of accepting "low-level, non-violent misogyny", while former deputy leader Harriet Harman called for a new rule forcing the party to have a man and a woman for leader and deputy leader.

But shadow equalities minister Cat Smith pointed out half of the shadow cabinet were women.