Jeremy Corbyn’s “imminent” reshuffle of his top team in Parliament will take place without Shadow Cabinet elections by MPs.
In a significant victory for the newly re-elected Labour leader, the party’s ruling NEC has decided to delay proposals to give the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) a direct say over his frontbench.
At its meeting on Saturday night, the NEC agreed not to put the plan to the full conference and instead will discuss it again at an ‘awayday’ in November, HuffPost has been told.
MPs voted overwhelmingly this month to restore annual Shadow Cabinet elections, in order to give them a say over who Corbyn could put into his top team.
The plan was seen as a way of healing the divisions of the summer leadership contest and to pave the way for critics to return with a mandate from their colleagues.
But the NEC agreed that further discussions were needed and that it wanted to focus on other rule changes for this year’s party conference instead, including giving the party in Scotland and Wales new posts on the NEC.
Although some NEC members were disappointed at the Shadow Cabinet delay, others felt they had won a more significant long-term victory in securing the extra NEC places.
Corbyn’s rival plan to give party members a direct say over any Shadow Cabinet elections will also be discussed at the NEC ‘awayday’ on November 22, but most of its members believe the idea is too expensive and impractical.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell confirmed on Sunday that it would be ‘weeks’ before any further moves on the elections plan.
The Labour leader revealed yesterday that he planned an “imminent” reshuffle of his top team after the party conference ends, and has to fill more than 60 posts left vacant by the mass resignations in the wake of June’s Brexit vote.
With key standing committees on bills due when Parliament returns in October, and shadow ministers ‘double-hatting’ jobs, he wants to announce a new Commons team as soon as possible.
The NEC decision not to pursue Shadow Cabinet elections means that those MPs who had made their restoration a condition of their return will have to either reconsider or stay away.
However, others may still offer to rejoin the frontbench team as long as the leadership makes clear it wants to broaden the party’s support and reflect its different wings of opinion.
Senior figures such as Keir Starmer and Dan Jarvis are among those who could join the new Shadow Cabinet. But others may now be deterred from coming back.
Former Shadow Communities Secretary John Healey told HuffPost on Saturday that giving MPs a say over the Shadow Cabinet would prove the leader “means what he says about unifying the party”.
Corbyn met PLP chairman John Cryer and Shadow Chief Whip Rosie Winterton to discuss the plans on Friday and Saturday but no concrete agreement was reached.
Some party sources felt that there was a need to recognise Corbyn’s fresh mandate and not to ‘box him in’ on the issue. Talks about rebuilding links between the PLP and the leadership will continue.
McDonnell today insisted that a list of abusive tweets by Labour MPs that had been issued by the Corbyn leadership campaign this summer, was “not a hit list” for deselections.
However, Corbyn failed to succeed in delaying the NEC’s agreed plan to expand its own 33-strong body to include two new representatives for the Scottish and Welsh Labour parties.
HuffPost has been told that the leader made a personal plea to postpone the rule change but was rebuffed by the NEC at Saturday night’s meeting.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who is set to take up the new NEC post along with a Welsh rep, made an impassioned plea for conference to vote on the changes, which will also give the party north of the border ‘full autonomy’.
Copies of the rule changes, outlined in red below, have been passed to HuffPost.
The changes are set to be approved by the full conference on Tuesday, although leftwingers may try to mobilise Unite and other unions to vote to postpone them in line with Corbyn’s wishes.
‘Moderates’ claim that the two new NEC places will shift the balance of power from a narrow pro-Corbyn majority to a narrow anti-Corbyn majority.
Plans by the leadership to give members more NEC places are expected to fail if trade unions decide to block them.