Rivals rule out Jeremy Corbyn on frontbench team

TWO of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rivals have ruled out including him in their frontbench team in a backlash against the veteran left-winger who many believe could win the contest to succeed Ed Miliband.

Labour leadership contenders (from left) Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA
Labour leadership contenders (from left) Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA

During the latest head-to-head of the four contenders on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Show, Liz Kendall, seen as the champion of the Blairite right wing of the party, made it clear she would not countenance Mr Corbyn in her team and warned the party against embracing the left.

Ms Kendall, who many now expect to come fourth, made her comments as former chancellor Alistair Darling gave her his backing as the most credible candidate despite rival Andy Burnham previously being his deputy at the Treasury.

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Mr Corbyn said Ms Kendall “would be there” in his shadow cabinet, adding: “I’m sure Liz and I could find some common ground on some issues somewhere. We may not have the same economic direction.” But Ms Kendall said the Opposition’s top team would need to be “serious and credible”, adding they would need to take on “very difficult issues” while also inspiring Labour supporters.

Aides to frontrunner Mr Burnham said he could not “envisage any circumstances” where Mr Corbyn would be on his frontbench, insisting the shadow health secretary was joking when he told a BBC debate he “might be open to listening”.

Fellow candidate Yvette Cooper said she did not want to “prejudge” the issue.

Mr Corbyn, who is backed by the Unite union and the powerful London party, has defied his initial rank outsider status to replace Mr Miliband by securing the most nominations so far from constituency parties and reportedly topping some private opinion polls.

But asked if she would have Mr Corbyn in her shadow cabinet, Ms Kendall told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live: “No.” She added: “I believe you need to have a serious and credible shadow cabinet with people who are prepared to take on the very difficult issues we face as a party, as well as inspiring our supporters with a clear vision for the future. We’ve always been a broad church as a Labour Party but I think my politics comes from a very different place from Jeremy’s and it wouldn’t be right for him to be in my shadow cabinet.”

Labour’s Diane Abbott, who is a supporter of Mr Corbyn, said she did not believe the Islington North MP could win the leadership contest.

Asked if Mr Corbyn could win, she said: “No. These stories about where he comes first – no-one has seen such polls, that is a silly story. But he is doing very well and the reason Jeremy is doing very well is that the things Jeremy is talking about – peace abroad, social justice at home – are things that chime with Labour Party members.

“The sneering at Jeremy for believing in things that actually millions of people believe in – like we shouldn’t be bombing Syria – and the attempt to abuse Labour Party members, we are hearing they are mad, that they are having a tantrum – that doesn’t play well.”