UK Politics

Shadow cabinet elections bid 'not anti-Corbyn'

Meeting of shadow cabinet
Image caption Many members of Mr Corbyn's original shadow cabinet resigned in the wake of the EU referendum vote

A Labour MP has told the BBC his bid to bring back elections to the shadow cabinet is part of efforts to unite the party - not to undermine its leader.

Clive Betts said it was "absolutely ridiculous" to suggest his motion was part of a plot against Jeremy Corbyn.

His motion is likely to be debated on Monday - at the first meeting of Labour MPs and MEPs since recess.

Ed Miliband axed Labour's old shadow cabinet elections in 2011, saying they were a "huge distraction".

The former leader argued that shadow cabinet elections in opposition - which until then had been in place for decades - meant Labour MPs were "jockeying for position" for months and he wanted Labour to "spend our time talking to the public and not ourselves".

'Can't go back'

But, five years on, amid a new leadership contest between incumbent Jeremy Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith, backbencher Mr Betts has tabled a motion urging the PLP to "come together", whatever the result.

It urges Labour's ruling body, the National Executive Committee, to bring forward a rule change at the party conference in September, to reinstate the elections system following the result of the leadership battle on 24 September.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Betts said party members wanted unity and were fed up of infighting

Mr Corbyn won an overwhelming victory among members last year to become leader but has faced resignations from his shadow cabinet and a vote of no confidence among MPs.

Mr Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, told Newsnight: "Whoever wins the leadership election, we can't go back to that sort of situation."

While it might mean MPs who had not got on with Mr Corbyn would serve in his shadow cabinet, Mr Betts added: "The fact they would have to sit down however uncomfortably and work together - that would be a major step forward in my view."

He said his motion was about making Labour "an effective opposition" by pulling together people with different views.

But Newsnight political editor Nick Watt said some in Mr Corbyn's camp would take the view it was part of a coup attempt against Mr Corbyn and would argue that Mr Corbyn had formed an "inclusive" shadow cabinet when he became leader.

Many of those MPs then resigned in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership following the EU referendum result in June.

Mr Betts told the programme that idea was "absolutely ridiculous". "This is my motion ... I haven't been going around talking to people and plotting with people and trying to enlist support."

He said Labour voters were "fed up" with the party falling out among itself and his "pragmatic" motion was aimed at improving party unity.

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