Labour backbenchers think Jeremy Corbyn should reappoint his shadow cabinet in the wake of the party’s stellar election performance. But with many former critics now wanting a job, will the zero-to-hero Labour leader be forgiving and look to them instead?
In unprecedented Westminster scenes, former Labour big hitters like Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna and Angela Eagle have suggested they could return to the front benches, if their former nemesis agreed to take them back.
The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is meeting on Tuesday evening for the first time since the June 8 election, in which far-left outsider Corbyn received a stunning and unexpected 40 percent of the vote.
Cooper, who was allegedly planning a leadership coup against Corbyn in the expectation the party would be smashed in the election, is now eyeing a promotion to shadow home secretary. Umunna, too, said he is keen on a position at the top table.
“Yes, if I’m asked, but I make absolutely no presumptions,” the Streatham MP told LBC radio.
Although some backbenchers, like Clive Efford, thinks Corbyn should keep his allies close and reappoint his existing shadow cabinet, others insist the socialist should bring the big names back into the fold.
“We have had our celebrations now, it’s time to take on the Tories,”Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“The time is probably right to strengthen the shadow cabinet. Of course it would be a good opportunity to strengthen the squad.”
Other former stars touted for the top team include ex-leader Ed Miliband, military veteran Dan Jarvis and former minister Caroline Flint.
But one-time deputy leader Harriet Harman seemed less keen to join ranks, as she had already served “a very long stint” on the front benches.
“I think [Corbyn] can choose who he wants to have in his shadow cabinet and I would expect that anybody he asks in the PLP would be prepared to serve now, because what he’s shown is that he can lead us forward at a time when the Conservatives were expecting to make gains,” she told BBC Radio 4.
Corbyn was welcomed back in Parliament on Tuesday with a standing ovation from his party benches.
“We’ve gained seats under his leadership and he can take the credit from that,” Harman added, mere months after having criticized Corbyn for his lack of leadership skills.
“What a long time in politics a week is. The atmosphere in the PLP was morbid before the election; we were expecting the Tories to lay waste to us, and instead it turned around and we come back coherent, united, the atmosphere is verging from on one hand relief to jubilant and the Tories are in disarray and Jeremy Corbyn has to take the credit for that because he was the leader and we’ve gone forward.”
New Statesman political pundit Stephen Bush argued that while Corbyn’s closest allies will stay put, “former Corbynsceptics will be welcomed in, but to junior posts and to fill existing vacancies.”