Jeremy Corbyn Tells Labour MPs To Stop Arguing In Public And Turn Their Fire On The Tories

'I don't want blind loyalty'

09/05/2016 17:46 | Updated 10 May 2016
Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn has warned his MPs to stop rowing with each other in public – and to instead turn their fire on the Tories.

In a message to the weekly Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), Mr Corbyn was set to say that he did not expect “blind loyalty” or even “across-the-board unity” among his MPs.

Yet he stressed that party members were sick of MPs “parading on the media to give a running commentary” on Labour’s fate.

And in the wake of the May 5 local elections, the Labour leader said that although the party was "not yet" doing enough to win in 2020, "we have moved in the right direction".

But the PLP meeting also saw several Labour MPs criticise Mr Corbyn, with Jess Philips attacking his leadership style and former Cabinet minister Peter Hain warning there were real problems for the party in Wales.

Wes Streeting raised the issue of the damage done to the party's image by Ken Livingstone's remarks about Hitler and Jews.

Mr Corbyn's call for an end to the sniping came as MPs gave Sadiq Khan a hero's welcome for his victory in taking London's Mayoralty after eight years of Tory rule.

Two days after his comprehensive victory in the capital, the Mayor finally met Mr Corbyn in the Leader of the Opposition's office in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

Mr Khan has urged the party nationally to reach out more to non-Labour voters, and several MPs were critical of their leader's remark that councillors "hung on" to their seats and town halls across England.

Only today, new focus group research among swing voters in Nuneaton found that the public saw Labour as unfit to govern because it was rife with splits.

Mr Corbyn, who won a landslide among party members last year, rammed home his message that disunity was highly damaging.

In a statement released just before he addressed the PLP meeting, he said: "We need to reflect on the impact of what we do and say here on the public outside, across the country.

"I don’t expect, or even want, blind loyalty, but members and supporters expect us all to focus on taking on the Tories – and for our debates to be focused on policy, not personality.

“Members also tell me that they don’t think Labour MPs should be parading on the media to give a running commentary on our party. If we are on the media we are there to give our verdict on this failed and divisive government, not on each other.

“We need, if not across-the-board unity, then at least respect for each other - and to turn our fire turned on this Tory government, and its forced academisation, tax and disability cuts policies in utter disarray.

“It’s been said in the past few days we need to stop talking about ourselves and engaging with the concerns and priorities of the wider public. I suggest we all follow that advice.”

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Jeremy Corbyn welcoming new MPs Gill Furness and Chris Elmore to the Commons

HuffPost UK understands that Keith Vaz defended fellow MP Naz Shah for her apology over anti-Israel posts she had made on Facebook, and condemned the public attacks on her by other Labour MPs.

Mr Corbyn responded to Mr Streeting's criticism of the handling of the Ken Livingstone affair, stating that an independent inquiry had been set up to look into the allegations.

Allies of the leadership claimed that the mood of the PLP had changed since the election results, and that none of the critics' attacks had any 'purchase' among colleagues.

Critics of Mr Corbyn are now holding their fire on any possible leadership challenge until after the EU referendum on June 23, and many are resigned to waiting until next year at the earliest.

The Labour leader was set to tell the meeting that Labour was united on many policies, including a new opposition to "destructive austerity".

He also praised Shadow Communities Secretary Jon Trickett for Labour's performance in the 2016 elections, claiming he was "closing the gap" with the Tories since the 7-point deficit in the 2015 General Election.

He said BBC projections showed that Labour was now one point ahead in share of the vote.

But Mr Corbyn added that he knew there was much more to do to win victory in 2020.

"Let’s be clear. The results were mixed. We are not yet doing enough to win in 2020. This is only the first stage in our task of building a winning electoral majority, attracting voters from all the other parties and mobilising those who have been turned off politics altogether – as we did last week in Bristol and London.

“But overall we have moved in the right direction. And now we have to build on these results.”

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