Jeremy Corbyn should shun the return of Labour heavyweights and keep together his “winning team”, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said today.
Speaking on Peston on Sunday this morning, McDonnell said the current Shadow Cabinet had delivered wins across the country which no one expected and the team should remain intact.
Former Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has indicated she is willing to return to the Shadow Cabinet, having been critical of Jeremy Corbyn since he defeated her in the 2015 leadership contest, and it is believed others are prepared to come back to the frontbench.
Corbyn appeared to offer an olive branch to those who had previously urged him to quit as leader, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr he was going to “reach out” across the party.
But speaking less than an hour later, McDonnell was clear the current team should remain intact.
He said: “Our shadow cabinet at the moment was a winning team.
“It just won effectively votes that no one predicted that we would so I don’t want to break up that winning team.”
McDonnell acknowledge that it is ultimately “for Jeremy to decide” who serves in the Shadow Cabinet, but said: “It’s a winning team I think we should hold together, but there are a number of vacancies that’ll be coming up almost certainly in addition to that there’s other roles people can play.”
Corbyn’s unpopularity with Labour’s Parliamentary Party led to a leadership challenge from former Shadow Cabinet member Owen Smith in summer 2016, after 172 MPs voted against the leader in a vote of no confidence.
Corbyn won the contest with a greater margin than his victory in the 2015 leadership election, but many veteran Labour MPs were not prepared to return to his Shadow Cabinet.
Asked whether those MPs eating “humble pie” since Thursday’s election would be allowed back in the Cabinet, Corbyn said: “I’m the most generous person in the world.”
He added: “Yes, of course we’re going to reach out. Listen, I always have, ever since I became leader, I’ve reached out and there’s been one or two difficulties at times in the Parliamentary Labour Party but let’s put that behind us.
“The issue is, the party came together around a brilliant manifesto, came together and fought this election, came together for a result that you [Andrew Marr] and nobody else ever expected.”