Welsh Labour MPs ‘vulnerable’ in election, claims Plaid MP

Liz Saville Roberts Some of Labour’s seats in Wales will be “very vulnerable” in a snap general election, a Plaid Cymru Liz Saville Roberts has said.

She spoke before MPs voted in favour of triggering the 8 June general election.

But Labour shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said her party was ready for the fight.

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said calling the election was the right decision for the country’s security and stability.

A total of 522 MPs from all parties voted to allow an early general election to take place – with Cynon Valley’s Ann Clwyd the only Welsh MP among the 13 to vote against.

“I voted against calling an early general election because this is a cynical distraction from Brexit,” she said on Twitter.

Media playback is unsupported on your deviceMedia captionSnap election ‘idiocy’ says veteran Labour MP Ann Clwyd

Eight Welsh Labour MPs – Geraint Davies, Paul Flynn, Madeleine Moon, Wayne David, Jo Stevens, Susan Elan Jones, David Hanson and Chris Bryant – did not take part in the vote.

It came after Mrs May made a shock announcement to call for the early election a day earlier.

Ms Saville Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, speculated on BBC Radio Wales that Welsh Labour would do its “level best” to present itself as being led by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.

“But Welsh people know that Labour are led by Jeremy Corbyn,” said the Plaid MP, whose party is defending three seats in Wales.

Speaking on the Good Morning Wales programme, she claimed some Labour stalwarts had shown “no thirst for the fight”.

“We are going to see some very vulnerable Labour seats in Wales. And we’re going to be there chomping at the bit,” she added.

Image caption Nia Griffith declined to discuss what a bad result would mean for Jeremy Corbyn.

Ms Griffith said she welcomed the election as an “opportunity for people to choose”.

She said the Labour party had been conscious a snap election could be called “but sadly the prime minister lied to us”.

However, she said the party was ready.

She refused to discuss what a bad result could mean for the future of Jeremy Corby as leader of the party, adding: “A good result is that we have the opportunity to lead the country.”

‘Risk’

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said the prime minister had called an election so she could “strengthen her hand” in the Brexit negotiations if the party won a bigger majority.

Mr Cairns said the UK government had a small majority, something EU leaders could “exploit”.

He added the election was “clearly a challenge” for the Conservatives and there was a “risk”, but he said calling an election was the “right thing to do”.

Media playback is unsupported on your deviceMedia captionPlaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams said that the Prime Minister’s record was as straight as “the legendary European banana”.

During the debate on the early election Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams said that the Prime Minister’s record was as straight as “the legendary European banana”.

He said the election was not about “seeing off” her opponents on the opposite side of the House of Commons, but her enemies behind her.

Image caption Neil Hamilton said first-past-the-post voting system is “very unfair”.

Neil Hamilton, UKIP group leader, said his party would be the “guard dogs of Brexit”, adding: “We don’t trust Theresa May to deliver, particularly on immigration control”.

He said the voting system for general elections – first past the post – was “very unfair” especially to small parties.

But he added: “We’ll use this election as an opportunity to get our message across of Britain for the British.”

Image caption Rhodri Morgan suggested Labour could talk about Brexit in Wales

Meanwhile, former Labour first minister Rhodri Morgan said Jeremy Corbyn should have “nice clear punchy messages” in Labour’s general election campaign.

Asked what his election advice to Mr Corbyn would be, Mr Morgan said: “Nice clearly punch messages reflecting the parlous state of the health service, the crazy idea about the restoration of grammar schools [and] the problems over school places in England.”

But in Wales, where many public services are devolved, Mr Morgan said there was “no reason for us not to have an election about Brexit”.

Lord Mike German, former Welsh Liberal Democrat leader and now treasurer for the UK party, said his party was “the only ones who could stop the hard Brexit of the Tories”.

He said voters understood this and, within two hours of Mrs May making her announcement, the party had signed up more than 2,000 new members across the UK.

Theresa May has told the BBC she will not take part in TV debates ahead of the planned election.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said Mrs May should be “empty chaired” if she refused to take part.

Analysis by BBC Wales political editor Nick ServiniImage caption Jeremy Corbyn called the election prospect a “chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first”.

The question is whether Jeremy Corbyn’s current poll ratings act as a counter-balance to what will presumably be a much stronger Labour local campaign than two years ago.

More broadly, I expect Labour to run a highly defensive effort to hold onto what they have got under pressure from all angles.

More from Nick

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‘Rich will pay more’ under Labour – John McDonnell

John McDonnell People earning above £70,000 a year could be asked to pay more tax under a Labour government, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has suggested.

He said he wanted to see a “fair taxation system” with corporations and the rich paying more.

Labour is also planning to link senior executives’ pay to the average wage of the workers in the same company.

Mr McDonnell said a fair taxation system would see “the corporations and the rich pay their way more”.

“That means ending the tax giveaways to the corporations and also those in inheritance tax, capital gains tax and the bankers’ levy – all of those giveaways under this government,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The rich will be above £70,000 to £80,000 a year – and that’s roughly defined as what people feel is an earning whereby people feel they can pay more.”

Mr McDonnell said middle and low earners were “being hit very hard” with a combination of income tax rises and “attempts by this government to increase National Insurance payments on the self-employed”.

Less than a week after announcing them in last month’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond dropped plans to make self-employed people pay more National Insurance after they were criticised for breaking a 2015 manifesto pledge.

Mr McDonnell said Labour would go into the election promising to cap senior executives’ pay with the introduction of “a pay ratio”.

“That in itself will set a cap in terms of what the maximum earning will be within that company in relation to an average worker’s pay, because we believe in fairness within our economy,” he said.

Mr McDonnell said Theresa May’s decision to seek an early election was more about the risk of an economic downturn than securing a mandate for her plans on leaving the European Union.

“I don’t think this election is about Brexit,” he said. “The government has seen that the economy at the moment is going to turn.

“We are seeing inflation increasing – we are seeing wages stagnate and we are seeing people in heavy debt as a result of that.”

Labour’s approach to Brexit talks would aim to secure “tariff-free access to the single market” and a managed and fair immigration system from the EU.

On future customs arrangements, Mr McDonnell said: “We want to maximise the benefits that we currently get from the customs union – that does not necessarily mean full membership of the customs union.”

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Cable: ‘No prospect’ of Lib Dem deal with Labour

Former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Vince Cable says his party won’t strike a deal with the Labour party after the general election.

But the former Business Secretary said they may vote with them on key issues in parliament. He made the comments to Today as UK Prime Minister Theresa May calls a snap election.

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The Jeremy Corbyn Story: Profile of Labour leader

Jeremy Corbyn on his bicycle Image copyright Reuters Image caption He remains in the saddle but not everyone thinks he is heading in the right direction Jeremy Corbyn’s election in September 2015 as Labour leader, at the age of 66, counted as one of the biggest upsets in British political history.

His re-election to the post almost a year later was not such a surprise but could prove even more momentous in terms of Labour’s direction in the coming years and the future course of British politics.

Seeing off the challenge of Owen Smith, who had the backing of the majority of Labour MPs, has made Mr Corbyn, for the time being at least, seemingly unassailable and increased the likelihood that he will lead the opposition into the next general election – scheduled for 2020.

If that is the case, Mr Corbyn will be a highly influential figure during one of the most important political periods of the past 50 years – as the clock ticks down to the UK’s exit from the EU following the Brexit referendum vote.

To his critics, he is almost a caricature of the archetypal “bearded leftie”, an unelectable throwback to the dark days of the 1980s, when Labour valued ideological purity more than winning power.

But to his army of supporters he is the only honest man left in politics, someone who can inspire a new generation of activists, and make them believe that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal Thatcherite consensus that has let them down so badly.

Image copyright PA Image caption The veteran Labour politician says politics is about fighting for causes one believes in

A fixture on the British left for more than 40 years, he has been an almost ever-present figure at demos and marches, a joiner of committees, a champion of controversial causes, a tireless pamphleteer, handy with a megaphone.

But not even his most ardent admirers would have had him down as a future leader of Her Majesty’s opposition. And not just because he believes in the abolition of the Monarchy.

Corbyn’s brand of left-wing politics was meant to have been consigned to the dustbin of history by New Labour.

He belongs to what had been a dwindling band of MPs, which also includes Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, who held fast to their socialist principles as their party marched moved right – and into power – under Tony Blair.

‘My turn’

At the start of the 2015 leadership contest, after scraping on to the ballot paper at the last minute, thanks to charity nominations from Labour MPs who wanted a token left-wing candidate to “broaden the debate”, he explained to The Guardian why he had decided to run.

“Well, Diane and John have done it before, so it was my turn.”

Asked if he had taken some persuading, he replied: “Yeah. I have never held any appointed office, so in that sense it’s unusual, but if I can promote some causes and debate by doing this, then good. That’s why I’m doing it.”

He added: “At my age I’m not likely to be a long-term contender, am I?”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Jeremy Corbyn was greeted by rapturous crowds during his 2015 victory Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Laura Alvarez, Mr Corbyn’s third wife, applauds his first victory

That view was quickly revised as Corbynmania took hold. Something about the Islington North MP struck a chord with Labour leadership voters in a way that his three younger, more polished, more careerist, rivals patently did not.

Despite, or perhaps because, of his unassuming, low-key style, he seemed able to inspire people who had lost faith in Labour during the Blair/Brown years and bring hope to young activists fired up by his anti-austerity message.

His entry into the contest also prompted a surge in people – many from the left of the existing Labour membership – joining the party or paying £3 to become registered supporters.

His perceived integrity and lifelong commitment to the socialist cause made him an attractive option to many left-wing voters jaded by the spin and soundbites of the Westminster political classes.

Over the course of a year or so since becoming leader he has become something of a cult figure – ironic for someone who always insisted he didn’t do personality politics and had never tried to cultivate a following among MPs.

Legendary frugality

Instead of amusing anecdotes about youthful indiscretions, or tales of climbing Westminster’s greasy pole, his political biography is dominated by the list of the causes he has championed and committees he has served on.

He once confessed he had never smoked cannabis – practically unheard of in the left-wing circles he grew up in, but the mark of a man who is known for his austere, almost ascetic, approach to life.

His frugality is legendary. He usually has the lowest expenses claims of any MP.

“Well, I don’t spend a lot of money, I lead a very normal life, I ride a bicycle and I don’t have a car,” he told The Guardian.

Asked what his favourite biscuit was during a Mumsnet Q&A , he answered: “I’m totally anti-sugar on health grounds, so eat very few biscuits, but if forced to accept one, it’s always a pleasure to have a shortbread.”

Jeremy Bernard Corbyn had an impeccable middle-class upbringing.

He spent his early years in the picturesque Wiltshire village of Kington St Michael. When he was seven, the family moved to a seven-bedroomed manor house in the hamlet of Pave Lane, in Shropshire.

The youngest of four boys, he enjoyed an idyllic childhood in what he himself has called a rural “Tory shire”.

Corbyn off-dutyImage caption Corbyn has won Beard of the Year no less than four times

Personal life: Lives with third wife. Has three sons from earlier marriage.

Food and drink: A vegetarian who rarely drinks alcohol. According to The Guardian, his favourite restaurant is Gaby’s diner in London’s West End, where he likes to eat hummus after taking part in demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.

Hobbies: Running, cycling, cricket and Arsenal football club. According to the Financial Times: “He loves making jam with fruit grown on his allotment, belongs to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese and is a borderline trainspotter.” He does not own a car. He is known for having an unusual hobby – an interest in the history and design of manhole covers.

Culture: A lover of the works of Irish poet WB Yeats. His favourite novelist is said to be the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, whose most famous work, Things Fall Apart, is about the tensions between colonialism and traditional societies. He is a fluent Spanish speaker and enjoys Latin American literature. His favourite films are said to be The Great Gatsby and Casablanca.

His brother Piers, now a meteorologist known for denying climate change is a product of human activity, has described the Corbyn boys as “country bumpkins”.

Corbyn disagrees with his brother on climate change but they remain close. They both learned their politics at the family dinner table, where left-wing causes and social justice were a frequent topic of debate.

Their maths teacher mother Naomi and electrical engineer father David were peace campaigners who met at a London rally for supporters of Spain’s Republicans in the fight against Franco’s fascists.

Piers, who would go on to be a well-known squatters leader in 1960s London, was even further to the left than Jeremy.

Both boys joined the local Wrekin Labour Party and the Young Socialists while still at school.

Corbyn had begun his education at the fee-paying preparatory school, Castle House, in Newport, before moving into the state sector, after passing his 11-plus.

He was one of only two Labour-supporting boys at Adams Grammar School, in Newport, when his class held a mock election in 1964.

In an interview with The Sun, his friend Bob Mallett recalls Corbyn being jeered by his right-wing schoolmates: “Jeremy was the Labour candidate and I his campaign manager because at a middle-class boarding grammar school in leafy Shropshire, there weren’t many socialists. We were trounced.”

Corbyn left Adams with two A levels, both at grade E, and an enduring hatred of selective education.

Corbyn in quotes

“It was an illegal war and therefore [Tony Blair] has to explain to that. Is he going to be tried for it? I don’t know. Could he be tried for it? Possibly,” on the Iraq war.

“Are super-rich people actually happy with being super-rich? I would want the super rich to pay properly their share of the needs of the rest of the community,” on Channel 4 News.

“He was a fascinating figure who observed a great deal and from whom we can learn a great deal,” on Karl Marx to the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

“Without exception, the majority electricity, gas, water and railway infrastructures of Britain were built through public investment since the end of WW2 and were all privatised at knockdown prices for the benefit of greedy asset-strippers by the Thatcher and Major-led Tory governments,” in his column for the Morning Star newspaper.

“Some people say to me, are we still worried about Hiroshima. My reply is that the weapons were used specifically against civilians and while ‘fireworks’ compared to what is now available, killed and have killed for the past 59 years. Nuclear weapons have saved no lives, killed thousands and maimed many more and impoverished the poor nations who have them,” on his website.

“I started wearing a beard when I was 19 and living in Jamaica; they called me ‘Mr Beardman,'” on winning the Beard Liberation Front’s Beard of the Year award in 2002.

He reportedly split up with his second wife Claudia after she insisted on sending their son Ben – now a football coach with Premier League Watford – to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, in Barnet, instead of an Islington comprehensive.

After leaving school, Corbyn spent two years in Jamaica, with Voluntary Service Overseas, something he has described as an “amazing” experience.

Back in the UK he threw himself into trade union activism, initially with now long defunct National Union of Tailors and Garment Makers.

Image copyright PA Image caption The late Tony Benn was a key influence on Corbyn’s politics

He started a course in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic but left after a series of arguments with his tutors over the curriculum.

“He probably knew more than them,” Piers told The Sun.

A successful career as a trade union organiser followed, with the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) and then the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE).

But his real passion was for Labour Party politics – and in 1974 he was elected to Haringey District Council, in North London.

In the same year he married fellow Labour councillor, Jane Chapman, a university lecturer.

Chapman says she married Corbyn for his “honesty” and “principles” but she soon grew weary of his intense focus on politics.

“Politics became our life. He was out most evenings because when we weren’t at meetings he would go to the Labour headquarters, and do photocopying – in those days you couldn’t print because there were no computers,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.

What others sayImage copyright Getty Images

“Jeremy is a saintly figure of enormous personal integrity. He is a man who lives his life according to his beliefs,” former Labour MP Chris Mullin, speaking to Panorama.

“If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation”, former Labour leader and prime minister Tony Blair.

“The showbiz glitz of New Labour temporarily hid the hole where the heart of Labour was supposed to be. Now the ‘Corbynites’ (whoever expected to use that phrase?) are trying to hide that hole behind some old banners and a bloke with a beard,” left-wing commentator Mick Hume.

“There is something inherently virtuous about him, and that is a quality that can rally the support of a lot of people, and most importantly, a lot of young people,” singer and activist Charlotte Church (pictured).

“While most of his chums have all moderated their views, dumped their corduroy jackets and grey suits, shaved their beards and quietly cancelled their CND subscriptions, [he] has hardly changed a bit; he is the Fidel Castro of London N1,” Telegraph journalist Robert Hardman.

They shared a love of animals, they had a tabby cat called Harold Wilson, and enjoyed camping holidays together in Europe on Corbyn’s motorbike.

But fun was in short supply at home, recalls Chapman, who remains in touch with Corbyn and backed his leadership bid.

During their five years together he never once took her dinner, she told The Mail, preferring instead to “grab a can of beans and eat it straight from the can” to save time.

In 1987, Corbyn married Claudia Bracchita, a Chilean exile, with whom he had three sons. The youngest, Tommy, was born while Corbyn was lecturing NUPE members elsewhere in the same hospital. Twenty-five-year-old Seb has been helping out on his father’s leadership campaign.

Image copyright PA Image caption Corbyn is a long standing supporter of Irish Republicanism

The couple separated in 1999, but remained on good terms.

Corbyn got married for a third time last year, to his long term partner Laura Alvarez, a 46-year-old Mexican fair trade coffee importer.

In the bitter internal warfare that split Labour in the late 1970s and early eighties, Corbyn was firmly on the side of the quasi-Marxist hard left.

A Labour man to his fingertips – he was no Militant “entryist” trying to infiltrate the party by stealth – he nevertheless found common cause with former Trotskyists such as Ted Knight, and joined them in their battle to push the party to the left.

He became a disciple of Tony Benn, sharing his mentor’s brand of democractic socialism, with its belief in worker controlled industries and state planning of the economy, as well as Benn’s commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament and a united Ireland.

Corbyn’s causesImage copyright PA

Here is just a small selection of the campaigns Jeremy Corbyn has been involved with over the past 50 years.

Nuclear disarmament: Joined CND as a schoolboy in 1966

Irish Republicanism: Organised Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams’ visit to the Commons in 1983. Once employed Irish Republican dissident Ronan Bennett as a member of staff at Westminster

Miners’ strike: Invited striking miners into Commons gallery in 1985 who were expelled for shouting “Coal not Dole”

Anti-Apartheid: serving on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and was arrested in 1984 for protesting outside South Africa House

Palestinian solidarity: A member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and campaigns regularly against the conflict in Gaza

Miscarriages of justice: Worked on on behalf of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, who were eventually found to be have been wrongly convicted of IRA bombings in England in the mid-1970s

Animal rights: Joined the League Against Cruel Sports at school, became a vegetarian at 20, after working on a pig farm

Iraq war: Chaired the Stop the War coalition

Gay rights: Spoke out in 1983 on a “No socialism without gay liberation” platform and continued to campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights

Corbyn was never seen as a great orator like Benn, or a firebrand like miners’ leader Arthur Scargill, but he worked tirelessly behind the scenes, his trousers stained with purple ink from the copying machines that produced the pamphlets and newspapers that were the lifeblood of the British Left in the pre-internet era.

He ran the London Labour Briefing newspaper, which helped propel Ken Livingstone to power on the Greater London Council.

He was elected to Parliament in 1983, to represent his home patch of Islington North, a seat he has held ever since and where he has increased his majority from 5,600 to 21,000, and as a back benchers was by most accounts a popular and hard-working MP.

The Bennite faction that Corbyn belonged to was already in retreat, following their leader’s failure to capture the deputy leadership of the party in 1981.

‘Modernisation’

After fighting and losing the 1983 election on arguably the most left-wing manifesto it had ever put before the British public, with its commitment to renationalising the utilities just privatised by the Thatcher government, pulling out of the EU, nuclear disarmament and the creation of a “national investment bank” to create jobs, Labour began the painful process of “modernisation” that led to the birth of New Labour.

And Corbyn would spend the next 32 years on the backbenches fighting a rearguard action against his party’s abandonment of the radical policies and values contained in the ’83 manifesto in the name of electability, under Neil Kinnock, John Smith and, most notably, Tony Blair.

Image copyright PA Image caption Corbyn has suggested Tony Blair should face a war crimes trial

Corbyn might have hailed from the same North London district as Blair and entered Parliament in the same year but that is where the similarity ended.

He abhorred Blair’s embrace of free market economics and did his best to be a thorn in the younger man’s side throughout his time in Downing Street, although Blair’s large majorities ensured the damage was barely noticeable.

He would always vote with his conscience, rather than be dictated to by the party whips.

It earned him the accolade of being Labour’s most rebellious MP, defying the party managers more than 500 times.

It also meant he and his allies became increasingly isolated, with their views and interventions ignored by the mainstream media and most of their colleagues on the Labour benches.

Blair’s dire warnings that Labour would face “annihilation” if it elected Corbyn during the leadership contest were met by Corbyn with a suggestion that his predecessor as Labour leader should probably face trial for war crimes over his role in the Iraq war.

Image copyright PA Image caption Corbyn has been a stalwart of the British left for more than 40 years Image copyright PA Image caption Campaigning for a united Ireland in 1984

Corbyn and his comrades – unlike their modernising colleagues they would use the term without irony – routinely attached themselves to any cause that felt like it would strike a blow against British and American “imperialism” or the Israeli state.

Internationalist in outlook, they would proclaim solidarity with socialist campaigns and governments in places like Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador and attack US policies that, in Corbyn’s view, enslaved the Latin American world.

He incurred the wrath of the Labour leadership early on his career when he invited two former IRA prisoners to speak at Westminster, two weeks after the Brighton bomb that had nearly killed Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet.

Later on it would be his willingness to share platforms with representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah that would put him at the centre of controversy. When challenged, he insists he does not share their views but that peace will never be achieved without talking to all sides.

Rock star status

He may have been largely sidelined in the House of Commons, respected but too much of a known quantity to have an impact, but Corbyn’s stature and profile outside Parliament continued to grow.

He chaired the Stop the War Coalition and became a leading figure in the anti-austerity movement, which began to attract large crowds of young activists eager for something to believe in and to take the fight to then Prime Minister David Cameron.

Still, no one gave Corbyn a prayer when he entered the contest to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, with bookmakers offering a price of 200-1.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Mr Corbyn’s relationship with the media has been a turbulent one

His elevation to rock star status, among the crowds who flocked to his leadership campaign meetings, must have been as much of a shock to Corbyn as it was to his opponents, but he never showed it.

He carried on, just as he always had, railing against inequality, talking about hope, promising to renationalise industries, tax the rich and scrap Trident, and wearing the same white, open-necked shirt with pens sticking out of the top pocket.

Only now people were listening.

Image copyright PA Image caption The Labour leader has sought to bring a new approach to Prime Minister’s Questions

During that leadership campaign Jeremy Corbyn is understood to have rejected pleas from some supporters for him to stand aside, having made his point and injected new life into Labour’s left, to leave the field clear for a younger candidate who might have more electoral appeal. He appeared determined to make a go of the leadership.

Many “moderate” shadow cabinet members returned to the backbenches rather than serve under him but he was able to put together a top team that reflected a broad range of opinion within the party.

He sought to bring a new approach to leadership, adopting a less confrontational and more conversational tone at Prime Minister’s Questions and generally refraining from either sound bites or photo opportunities – to the exasperation of what his supporters call the “mainstream media” and the derision of some commentators.

Leadership challenge

The coalition behind Mr Corbyn held together for nine months, despite growing discontent among Labour MPs who had never wanted him as leader and could not accept either his style of leadership or his policies.

The EU referendum brought things to a head. Corbyn, who had been a Eurosceptic as a backbencher, was accused of mounting a half-hearted campaign to keep Britain in the EU and of not appearing to care too much that his side had lost.

Labour MPs, some of whom had been plotting to topple Corbyn at some point, saw this as the chance to make their move to try and force him to stand down, amid fears they would be wiped out at a snap election they expected to follow the referendum with him as leader.

Image copyright PA Image caption Owen Smith said his rival was unelectable but Mr Corbyn trounced him at the polls

He faced a mass walkout from the shadow cabinet and then a vote of no confidence, which he lost by 172 votes to 40, as Labour MPs – enemies and previously loyal shadow ministers alike – urged him to quit.

He refused to budge, pointing to the huge mandate he had received from Labour members and arguing that he had done better than many had expected in the electoral tests he had faced since becoming leader.

MPs selected Owen Smith, a former member of his shadow cabinet who claimed to share the same left wing values, to take him on in another leadership election.

Image copyright PA Image caption The Labour leader continued to draw in crowds that other politicians can only dream of Image copyright Getty Images Image caption But critics joked that his endorsement by UB40 showed he was stuck in the 1980s

So Jeremy Corbyn, the reluctant leader who had to be persuaded to stand in 2015, now found himself fighting to hold on to a position he never expected to hold, this time as favourite rather than as outsider.

And, back on the campaign trail among his own supporters, he seemed to rather enjoy himself.

As was the case a year earlier, thousands of people flocked to hear Mr Corbyn speak at rallies across the country – 10,000 turned up at a single event in Liverpool – as he sought to tap directly into grassroots support for his message as a counterweight to the perceived hostility of the “mainstream media”.

In an unconventional campaign which saw him endorsed by UB40 but vilified by JK Rowling, the only genuine moment of discomfort came during “traingate” – when his claims that a train was so “ram-packed” that he had to sit on the floor came into question after Virgin Trains released footage showing him passing empty seats.

Mr Corbyn’s re-election has strengthened his position, with signs some of his critics are willing to serve under him again despite their differences.

But it remains to be seen whether his commitment to reach out to his opponents and focus squarely on winning the next election will act as springboard to a new phase of his leadership or prove only a temporary respite in what some have said is an existential battle for control of the party.

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Labour reshuffle: Diane Abbott made shadow home secretary

Clockwise from top left - Diane Abbott, Shami Chakrabarti, Nick Brown, Keir Starmer Image copyright PA Image caption The appointments of Diane Abbott, Shami Chakrabarti, Nick Brown and Keir Starmer were announced on Thursday Diane Abbott has been promoted to shadow home secretary in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench reshuffle.

Ex-Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti is shadow attorney general and Keir Starmer, who left the team in June amid a wave of resignations, returns as shadow Brexit secretary.

But Dame Rosie Winterton, who had tried to negotiate between Mr Corbyn and many of his MPs, is out as chief whip.

Mr Corbyn’s critics have suggested the reshuffle will fail to unify the party.

One senior figure said the reshuffle so far looked “vengeful and cack-handed”, and Middlesbrough South MP Tom Blenkinsop accused Mr Corbyn of “seeking submission not unity”.

Another MP, Neil Coyle, told BBC Radio 5 live that Dame Rosie’s work during a difficult period for Labour had been “underestimated”.

He said that, despite everything, “the parliamentary votes have been fairly coherent and that’s a direct result of someone who is a unifying figure – and that’s Rosie as chief whip.”

It is understood that some Labour MPs who were thinking about returning to the front bench are now reconsidering.

‘Opportunities to unite’

But Mr Corbyn’s team denied the reshuffle was divisive, saying other MPs who resigned will be returning to shadow cabinet roles later.

A Labour spokesman said: “Jeremy has today spoken to a number of colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party and will continue to do so throughout the day. He has begun the process of appointing a new frontbench team.”

Jo Stevens, who has been brought in as the new shadow Welsh secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she thought Mr Corbyn had reached out to unify the party.

“I was one of the senior people in Owen Smith’s leadership campaign and he’s offered me a place on the shadow cabinet,” she said.

“The Labour Party is a collective and we’re there to hold the government to account,” she added. “That’s why I stayed in my post in the summer and accepted the job yesterday.”

Ms Stevens said there would be opportunities on “plenty of issues” to unite the party against the Tories.

‘Full circle’

Mr Corbyn had promised to unite his party following his re-election as leader last month.

Some posts have been vacant since the resignations in the aftermath of June’s EU referendum in protest at his leadership.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption Mr Corbyn was re-elected Labour leader last month

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Starmer stood down from his shadow Home Office minister post in June. He will now join shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner, new shadow economic secretary Jonathan Reynolds and shadow chancellor John McDonnell on Labour’s “shadow Brexit team”.

As well as moving Ms Abbott from shadow health secretary and Ms Stevens, Sarah Champion has been made shadow women and equalities minister.

Announcing the changes to his top team, Mr Corbyn leader said in a statement: “I am delighted to confirm the appointments of four extremely talented women to our shadow cabinet.

“These appointments mean, for the first time ever, two out of the three traditional ‘great offices of state’ will be shadowed by women.”

He added that his front bench would include 10 Labour MPs from the north of England and five black or ethnic minority MPs.

Ms Abbott said of her new role: “I am honoured to serve. My first job when I left university was as a graduate trainee in the Home Office, so my career has come full circle.”

The position was vacated by Andy Burnham who quit to run in the Greater Manchester mayoral election.

Analysis Image copyright PA Image caption Front bench roles: Clive Lewis, Jo Stevens and Sarah Champion

By Iain Watson, political correspondent

Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle sees big promotions for two women seen as his allies – Diane Abbott and Shami Chakrabarti, a year after he was criticised for not putting women in top shadow cabinet roles.

But the real significance is not who is in – it is who is out. The very popular chief whip, Rosie Winterton, has been sacked. She was seen as someone, behind the scenes, who stood up for MPs’ interests against the party leader- and who had been working hard to broker a compromise on shadow cabinet elections.

She believed that many more MPs might return to the frontbench if they were answerable to colleagues and not just to the leader. So many Labour MPs tonight are expressing disappointment that she has gone.

And it is interesting that Clive Lewis, the shadow defence secretary who, unlike Jeremy Corbyn, saw no pressing need to challenge Trident renewal, has been shifted to become shadow business secretary.

One senior party figure has called the reshuffle “cack handed and vindictive”. Unity has not yet broken out in the Labour Party.

Conservative MP Luke Hall said Ms Abbott’s appointment showed Labour had “lost touch with ordinary working-class people”. He said: “By appointing a shadow home secretary who disagrees with the public, and her own party, about the need to control our own borders, Labour have abandoned the centre ground.”

Baroness Chakrabarti, who was recently made a Labour peer, joins the shadow cabinet for the first time.

Image copyright Labour Party Image caption Dame Rosie Winterton wished her successor “every success” in his new role

Accepting the shadow cabinet role, she said it was “an enormous privilege”, and added: “I hope to follow in a great tradition of law officers on both sides of the aisle who have defended rights, freedoms and the rule of law.”

Mr Corbyn has also created a new position, shadow minister for black and minority ethnic communities, and appointed Dawn Butler to the role.

New opposition chief whip Nick Brown, who served in the same role under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said he hoped to “bring experience” and “play a constructive role” in providing the “strongest possible opposition” to the Conservative government.

Dame Rosie, who was opposition chief whip since 2010, said it had been an “honour” to do the job and thanked the whips and the Parliamentary Labour Party for their support.

‘Deeply saddened’

Mr Corbyn paid tribute to her “six years’ exceptional service” and said she had played “an outstanding role in her support for me as leader and for the Labour Party as a whole”.

But the Opposition Whips’ office are said to be “deeply saddened” by her departure.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said he understood Dame Rosie did not leave her job voluntarily, and that there was “some significance” to her removal.

She had been trying to get a deal agreed on shadow cabinet elections and was seen as a “bulwark against attempts to deselect MPs that disagreed with Mr Corbyn”.

Several prominent Labour figures took to Twitter to thank Dame Rosie for her work, including former leader Ed Miliband and former deputy leader Harriet Harman.

A number of MPs unhappy with Mr Corbyn’s leadership have said they could not serve in his shadow cabinet, including his former challenger Owen Smith.

Others are said to be considering serving under the leader if he reinstates elections to the shadow cabinet, which were axed by former leader Ed Miliband in 2011.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn has told the BBC that there will be no shadow cabinet elections before November.

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General election 2017: Labour MPs will not require reselection

Jeremy Corbyn speaking during a discussion Image copyright PA Labour MPs have been told they will be automatically reselected as candidates in their constituencies for the general election on 8 June.

Jeremy Corbyn had hoped to give party members a say in who was chosen, but has accepted there is insufficient time to do that before polling day.

However, one Labour MP has told Mr Corbyn there is still time for him to stand down as leader before the vote.

Labour will endorse the PM’s call for a snap election in a Commons vote later.

Mr Corbyn welcomed the prime minister’s election announcement on Tuesday, calling it a “chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first”.

Labour policies

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour would support the vote in Parliament for an election, calling it “an opportunity for removing a Tory government and replacing it with a Labour government”.

Setting out the party’s manifesto ideas he said the government had a mandate for Brexit but not for the hard Brexit currently set out.

Labour wanted the government to negotiate with the EU for tariff-free access to the single market; managed and fair immigration; and to seek to maximise the benefits from the customs union, he said.

But he said the election had been called because the government saw “the economy is going to turn, we are seeing inflation increasing, wages stagnate and people in heavy debt. They also know our public services are in crisis, the NHS and schools…”

He said Labour wanted a pay ratio, from the top to bottom earners in a company. And it was “looking to the corporations and the rich to pay their share” in fair taxation to afford public services.

Corbyn leadership

Labour MPs and peers met on Tuesday evening in the wake of the election announcement.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said Mr Corbyn had been met by only cool applause.

Afterwards, one MP was heard to say: “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for… the Guardian jobs page.”

Image caption Tom Blenkinsop will not be standing in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

Earlier, in a video, John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow-in-Furness, said there was still time for Mr Corbyn to stand down “rather than lead Labour to defeat”.

In the Facebook video, Mr Woodcock, a long-standing critic of Mr Corbyn, said he was seeking re-election in his constituency, but could not endorse Mr Corbyn as the next prime minister.

The Labour leadership has insisted there is “a very positive mood” in the party and it looked forward to presenting “a real alternative” to the Conservatives.

Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said he will not be seeking re-election in the Hull West and Hessle seat he has represented since 1997.

And Tom Blenkinsop, who has been MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland since 2010, said he would not be standing for re-election, citing “irreconcilable differences” with the party’s leadership.

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At-a-glance: Guide to Labour 2016 conference agenda

Jeremy Corbyn and other members of the National Executive Committee at last year's conference This year’s Labour Party conference is taking place in Liverpool and could be one of the most dramatic for years. Here’s a rundown of what’s happening and some of the main highlights.

Sunday 25 September

09:00: Andrew Marr: Newly re-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to appear on the BBC show and other media outlets during the morning

11:00: Conference opening: The conference will officially be opened by General Secretary Iain McNicol

12:00 Party reform: Debate on policy making in the party

14:15: Communities: Shadow energy secretary Barry Gardiner and shadow environment secretary Rachael Maskell among speakers

16:00: Scotland and Wales: Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones will address the conference

Monday 26 September

09:30: Foreign Affairs: Shadow Foreign and Brexit Secretary Emily Thornberry will address the conference

10:30: Defence: Shadow Defence Secretary Clive Lewis will speak

12:00: Economy: Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will make his keynote speech

Tuesday 27 September

09:30: Public services: Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner among the speakers

14:15: Tom Watson: The party’s deputy leader will make his set-piece speech

15:00: Sadiq Khan: The Mayor of London will address the conference for the first time since his election in May

Wednesday 28 September

10:30: Home Affairs: Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, who is standing to be Mayor of Greater Manchester, will address the conference

14:15: Leader’s speech: Jeremy Corbyn will give the end-of-conference leader’s address

View the original article here