JEREMY Corbyn is already facing a backlash within Labour ranks after appointing one of his most hardline left-wing allies as shadow chancellor.
Serial rebel John McDonnell has been handed the crucial task of overseeing the party’s economic policy in a team that Mr Corbyn’s aides described as “refreshing” and “dynamic”.
Former leadership rival Andy Burnham has accepted a job as shadow home secretary, although a host of significant players have refused to take on frontbench roles. There has also been criticism that no women are in the most senior positions.
The scale of the problems Mr Corbyn faces were underlined as Hilary Benn, who is staying on a shadow foreign secretary, declined to offer full endorsement for Mr McDonnell’s appointment.
Asked if he was 100 per cent behind the move, Mr Benn told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is the choice that Jeremy has made. I respect the choice that Jeremy has made as leader.
“We have just come off the back of two bad election defeats for the Labour Party, and our principle task is to win the people’s trust when it comes to the economy.
“John’s first and last task as shadow chancellor will be to win the trust and confidence of the British people in arguing for a different economic policy.”
Pressed on whether he welcomes Mr McDonnell taking charge of the Treasury brief, Mr Benn said: “I welcome everybody who is serving in Jeremy Corbyn’s cabinet... because Jeremy won a thumping victory, we have a responsibility to rally round him.”
He went on: “Jeremy has appointed people to his shadow cabinet who he knows have different views to him on some issues of policy.
“That is about a different kind of politics. One of the reasons I think he won such a large mandate was partly about policy for some people, but also because he represents something different.
“He is going to respect the different views that people have got, and we have got to respect each other. It will be for the shadow cabinet and then ultimately for the Labour Party to decide what our policy will be going forward.”
Mr Benn, the first senior member of the new-look front bench to appear on the airwaves, attempted to calm fears among many Labour MPs that Mr Corbyn could campaign for Britain to leave the EU in the in/out referendum expected next year.
Chuka Umunna stood down as shadow business secretary complaining the new leader had refused to give him an assurance he would not back a “Brexit” vote.
But Mr Benn said: “He wants to ensure that Europe in particular works better for working people.
“Jeremy said whatever differences we may have with some aspects of European policy and whatever reforms we want to see, we will stay to fight together for a better Europe.”
Mr Benn also dismissed concerns about the lack of women in the top posts - traditionally considered to be shadowing the chancellor, home secretary and foreign secretary.
“It all depends on your definition of top job,” he said. “That is a slightly old fashioned view. International development, Diane Abbott is going to be doing that. The refugee crisis has taught us how important it is to play our part in supporting people.
“Education of our children is vital, Lucy Powell is going to be doing that., And Angela Eagle, as well as being shadow business secretary, she is going to be the shadow first secretary of state.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet
Shadow chancellor: John McDonnell
Shadow home secretary: Andy Burnham
Shadow foreign secretary: Hilary Benn
Shadow health secretary: Heidi Alexander
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury: Seema Malhotra
Shadow business secretary and first secretary of state: Angela Eagle
Shadow justice secretary: Lord Falconer
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary: Vernon Coaker
Shadow secretary of state for Scotland: Ian Murray
Shadow secretary of state for International Development: Diane Abbott
Chief whip: Rosie Winterton
Shadow education secretary: Lucy Powell
Shadow leader of the House of Commons: Chris Bryant
• The positions of shadow defence secretary, shadow work and pensions secretary, shadow education secretary, shadow energy secretary, shadow environment secretary, shadow communities secretary, shadow culture secretary, shadow transport secretary and shadow Wales secretary are yet to be confirmed.