Labour leadership: Corbyn vows to give 'more power' to activists

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Media caption,

Jeremy Corbyn: 'There's a thirst for change out there'

Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to give more say over policy-making to grass-roots Labour supporters to help build a "more equal and decent society".

The Labour leader told the BBC the way decisions were taken in the party after his re-election had to be opened up.

He also sought to build bridges with MPs critical of him by saying the "vast majority" have no fear of being barred from standing at the next election.

It came as one union leader told MPs to stop "knifing" their leader.

Unite boss Len McCluskey said he believed "only a rump of right wingers" would continue to oppose Mr Corbyn following his re-election and he should be allowed to lead without having "to pluck knives out of his back."

Speaking to the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Corbyn acknowledged there were "differences of opinion" between him and many of his MPs on policy but said there was also a "great deal of unanimity".

'Thirst for change'

He said Labour's growing party membership - which has swelled to more than half a million since the general election - now held greater sway and Labour MPs would be expected to fall into line with its support for a tough message on anti-austerity and public ownership.

But he played down talk that MPs judged to be out of step with the direction of the party could be deselected in the run-up to next general election.

MPs have warned of a purge linked to proposed changes to constituency boundaries in 2020 and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned that, if this happened, it could lead to a split in the party similar to the one in the early 1980s.

Mr Corbyn said the relationship between an MP and their constituency was "complex" but added: "Let's have a democratic discussion and, I think, the vast majority of MPs will have no problem whatsoever."

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Jeremy Corbyn: Let's wipe that slate clean, from today, and get on with the work we have got to do as a party together

Mr Corbyn said he wanted a less top-down approach to policy making, with more input from grass roots activists and the party conference, which began in Liverpool on Sunday, at the "centre of concluding policy debates".

"There is a lot of thirst for change out there," he said. "People want to see things done differently."

After Mr Corbyn secured 61.8% of the vote to comfortably defeat his challenger Owen Smith, there has been speculation that a number of Labour MPs who resigned from the shadow cabinet in the summer in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership could be willing to return.

Mr McCluskey said the majority of MPs would now be willing to serve under Mr Corbyn and the media should "watch this space".

But former shadow health and education secretaries Heidi Alexander and Tristram Hunt have already ruled out a return to the front bench and Mr Smith has also said he won't serve under his rival.

It is thought a number of MPs are only prepared to return if elections to the shadow cabinet - which were scrapped in 2011 - are reinstated. Labour's ruling National Executive Committee discussed the issue on Saturday but no conclusions were reached.

'Greater good'

Amid calls for unity, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said it was time for opponents of Mr Corbyn to fall in line, telling the BBC News Channel they needed to work for the "greater good" by providing a strong opposition.

She was speaking after Labour peer Lord Mitchell became the first representative to quit the party after Mr Corbyn's re-election.

The businessman, who was ennobled by Tony Blair in 2000, said he was concerned about Mr Corbyn's "lack of leadership qualities" and he would never become prime minister.

The peer also said he was alarmed by the rise of anti-Semitism within sections of the Labour movement and Mr Corbyn's "lukewarm" response to it.

In response, Mr Corbyn said the comments were "unfortunate" and there is "absolute unity in the party of opposing any form of anti-Semitism".

Winning mandate

In his first set piece interview since his re-election, Mr Corbyn told Andrew Marr he supported a huge programme of public investment in the economy, funded by extra borrowing and an increase in corporate taxation.

He also called on the government to be more open about the progress of the Brexit negotiations amid confusion about when Article 50 would be triggered.

While supporting the current defence budget, he appeared to cast doubt on plans by MI6 to recruit 1,000 extra staff, saying the security service's proposed expansion wasn't "particularly necessary".

On foreign policy, he said there should be an inquiry into Russian bombing in Syria and also suggested British troops should not be protected from future legal action over alleged abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan - after calls for an end to "vexatious" claims by PM Theresa May.

This, he said, would be a "step too far" as British soldiers had to respect international law.

Conservative Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested that Mr Corbyn did not pose a serious threat to the government, telling Andrew Marr his "left-wing 1970s" economic programme was "extremely dangerous".