Socialist Worker

New tests for Jeremy Corbyn after purge of the right

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2525

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the Stand Up To Racism conference

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the Stand Up To Racism conference (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

Right wing members of the Labour Party were raging last week after left wing party Jeremy Corbyn moved against them with a shadow cabinet reshuffle.

But Labour’s new shadow Brexit minister Sir Keir Starmer has already used his position to call for immigration to be reduced. And the new shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti was set to abstain on the Tories’ “snooper’s charter” bill.

Corbyn began his reshuffle on Thursday of last week by sacking Rosie Winterton as chief whip.

He also appointed anti-racist MP Diane Abbott as shadow home secretary, and Nia Griffith—who opposes nuclear weapons—as shadow defence secretary.

Winterton had been pushing for Corbyn to reinstate shadow cabinet elections, in which members of the shadow cabinet are selected by MPs.


MPs voted to scrap shadow cabinet elections in 2011 but now hope to use them to undermine Corbyn.

Clive Lewis was removed as shadow defence secretary after saying he wouldn’t oppose the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons. He is now shadow business secretary.

The reshuffle was a sign of Corbyn’s strength after he was re-elected as Labour leader last month.

He was also able to appoint 31 new shadow ministers after a wave of frontbench resignations kicked off the attempt to force him out earlier this year.

Eighteen of those appointed have returned to the fold after joining in with the resignations.

The Labour right had hoped to use calls for unity to pull Corbyn to the right. They are outraged that he has instead appointed left MPs to top positions.

Some MPs appeared to begin fresh attempts to organise against Corbyn.


Conor McGinn—who promised to keep fighting against Corbyn at a Labour conference fringe meeting last month—resigned from the whip’s office along with Holly Lynch.

And a report in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper claimed that backbench MPs were setting up a “shadow shadow cabinet” to directly undermine Corbyn’s leadership.

One anonymous Labour MP said, “Jeremy Corbyn is still the leader. So what? I’m going to do what I want to do.”

But there were also signs that Corbyn has made compromises with the Labour right on some issues, like with Starmer over immigration.

Think of what they can achieve when we understand that diversity is not a problem, it’s a strength.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Abbott disagreed that there should be a cap on immigration. But “sources close to Corbyn” said he agreed with trying to reduce immigration by “ending the undercutting of pay through the exploitation of migrant labour.”

The Tories’ “snooper’s charter” bill is set to be debated in the House of Lords this week.

The bill will give spies more power to access private emails. Labour MPs voted it through the Commons in June, and Labour Lords have been whipped to abstain.

Corbyn was re-elected leader last month in part because he represents an alternative to the politics of racism and because he opposed attacks on civil liberties.

Making concessions to the right over immigration can only strengthen those who want Labour to join in with scapegoating migrants.

‘I’ll be there in struggle,’ vows Abbott

Diane Abbott speaks at the Stand Up To Racism conference

Diane Abbott speaks at the Stand Up To Racism conference (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Jeremy Corbyn and new shadow home secretary Diane Abbott spoke at conferences organised by the Stop the War Coalition (see below) and Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) last Saturday.

Their appearance at both outraged the Labour right.

At SUTR conference Abbott promised to, “fight against racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies,” as shadow home secretary.

“There could be no more important time to hold this conference,” she said. “We are going to continue to stand up to racism.” Abbot vowed, “I, as your shadow home secretary, will be there in the struggle.”

And Corbyn said, “Campaigning is very important. When we come together we can achieve a great deal. Think of the strength of communities together.

“Think of what they can achieve when we understand that diversity is not a problem, it’s a strength.”

Corbyn had been under pressure to pull out of speaking at both events—and came under attack from sections of the Labour Party for attending.

The Labour right seized on criticisms to smear Corbyn. They would rather Labour’s leader backed war in Syria and pandered to anti-migrant racism.

Unity on the left in campaigning against war and racism is the way to beat them.

Momentum keeps growing

Labour left group Momentum marked a year last Saturday since it was set up to build on the mass rallies of Corbyn’s first leadership bid.

The aim was a “mass movement for social change” involving both Labour members and “the wider social movement which is springing up”.

But the group has come under sustained attack from the right.

Some activists in Momentum wanted to restrict its membership and focus on battles inside Labour.

Organiser Adam Klug said the group now has 20,000 paying members and over 200,000 supporters.

Re-energised by the second leadership campaign, they have an opportunity to organise with others in mass campaigns, such as against grammar schools and to defend refugees.

Stop the War condemns all the bombing in Syria

Up to 700 people attended the Stop the War Coalition (StW) international conference last Saturday.

The conference was called to mark 15 years since the coalition was formed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the US. It was also a call to arms to keep up the resistance to war and imperialist interventions that continue to blight the lives of millions.

Leading activist Salma Yaqoob talked of her involvement in StW since the start, saying her children have grown up knowing nothing but endless war.

She denounced the stigmatising of Muslims as terrorists that has accompanied the wars, saying it was “suffocating”.

Some at the conference raised the issue of Russia’s role in bombing in Syria. StW convenor Lindsey German and many delegates from the floor reiterated StW’s “condemnation of all foreign interventions”.


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the final plenary alongside newly appointed shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

Abbott condemned the dreadful conditions refugees fleeing war suffered in the Calais camp.

And to cheers former StW chair Corbyn thanked anti-war activists for their work.

Corbyn addressed a minority in the hall who called on him to support an intervention in Syria. He argued that a political solution was “not going to achieved by more bombing”.

He went on to point to the role of Britain in arming Saudi Arabia which is bombing civilians in Yemen.

Corbyn called for a suspension of such arms sales and wrapped up the conference with a call for activists to be the voices of peace.

Judith Orr

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