Jeremy Corbyn breaks reshuffle silence as Labour war of words continues

Posted On: 
7th January 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has compared his marathon frontbench reshuffle to a game of chess as Labour infighting over the controversial shake-up continued.

Breaking his silence on the event that ended in two sackings, three resignations and uproar in the party, Mr Corbyn also explained how he finalised the negotiations by text message.

Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher and Shadow Europe Minister Pat McFadden were both sacked, and Maria Eagle was replaced as Shadow Defence Secretary by anti-Trident MP Emily Thornberry.

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That sparked a furious backlash within the party, and led to Jonathan Reynolds, Stephen Doughty and Kevan Jones all leaving their shadow ministerial posts.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Mr Corbyn described hiring and firing members of his top team as an “adjustment” and likened the process to “playing multi-dimensional chess”.

“You start off with a chess board and that's fine, then you realise you're playing a game on a parallel board as well and then you suddenly find there's a third board down the way," he explained.

"Because if you move someone from department A to department B, that creates a vacancy in A, which you might need to fill with somebody from C.

“That then creates a vacancy in E, and by the way somebody in group G is very upset with the job they've got and wants to move somewhere else."

'VERY MODERN'

Mr Corbyn revealed he completed the appointments by a “series of text messages” as he prepared to speak at an event in support of legal aid.

"I finally signed it off just before I had to speak and pressed 'send'. By text. It was very modern," he said.

He added: "I went to a restaurant afterwards to get something to eat and I got lovely texts back. In my line of work you don't get nice texts."

The veteran left-winger said the reshuffle dragged on for so long because he was willing to hear out colleagues’ views on the matter.

"My great failing in life is to listen to everybody at whatever greater length they wish to speak to me," he said.

"And this building is full of people who speak at great length on lots of things.”

MCDONNELL ATTACK

Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell launched a renewed attack on the Labour MPs who quit the frontbench, accusing them of not acting in the interests of the party. 

Mr McDonnell said yesterday the three MPs were part of a “right-wing clique” associated with Blairite campaign group Progress.

Defending his comments today on Sky News, he said he wanted to ensure "people are clear about what those people’s objectives were”. 

He added: “I don’t think they had the interest of the Labour party in the long-term at heart, I think they pursued their own particular narrow politics.

Corbyn ally Ken Livingstone today branded the resigning shadow ministers a “disaffected group of uber-Blairites” and accused them of "backstabbing".

'FIGHTBACK'

Jon Ashworth, the Shadow Minister without Portfolio, has tried to shift the party on from days of infighting associated with the reshuffle.

Writing for PoliticsHome, Mr Ashworth said the “problems in David Cameron’s in-tray are already piling up” in the New Year.

He wrote: “2016 is the year Labour will step up the fightback with key elections that will provide the building “blocks for 2020.”