14 Sep 2015

Team Corbyn: who’s who?

Labour’s new shadow cabinet has been announced. Who is on the frontbench alongside Jeremy Corbyn and who is advising him behind the scenes?

Jeremy Corbyn (Reuters)

Newly-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has finished assembling his first shadow cabinet.

The Labour frontbench is a mixture of veterans, like Tony Blair’s former flatmate Lord Falconer, and new faces from the left of the party like John McDonnell, who has been appointed shadow chancellor.

Mr Corbyn also has a trusted circle of advisers working behind the scenes. Who’s who?

The new shadow cabinet

  • Leader of the opposition and leader of the Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn
  • Deputy leader of the Labour Party, party chairman and shadow minister for the cabinet office: Tom Watson
  • Shadow first secretary of state and business secretary: Angela Eagle
  • Shadow chancellor: John McDonnell
  • Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury: Seema Malhotra
  • Shadow home secretary: Andy Burnham
  • Shadow foreign secretary: Hilary Benn
  • Opposition chief whip: Rosie Winterton
  • Shadow health secretary: Heidi Alexander
  • Shadow education secretary: Lucy Powell
  • Shadow work and pensions secretary: Owen Smith
  • Shadow defence secretary: Maria Eagle
  • Shadow lord chancellor and justice secretary: Lord Falconer
  • Shadow communities and local government secretary: Jon Trickett
  • Shadow energy and climate change secretary: Lisa Nandy
  • Shadow leader of the Commons: Chris Bryant
  • Shadow transport secretary: Lilian Greenwood
  • Shadow Northern Ireland secretary: Vernon Coaker
  • Shadow international development secretary: Diane Abbott
  • Shadow Scotland secretary: Ian Murray
  • Shadow Welsh secretary: Nia Griffith
  • Shadow environment secretary: Kerry McCarthy
  • Shadow minister for women and equalities: Kate Green
  • Shadow culture secretary: Michael Dugher
  • Shadow minister for young people and voter registration: Gloria De Piero
  • Shadow minister for mental health: Luciana Berger
  • Shadow leader of the Lords: Baroness Smith of Basildon
  • Lords Chief Whip: Lord Bassam of Brighton
  • Shadow Attorney General: Catherine McKinnell
  • Shadow minister without Portfolio: Jonathan Ashworth
  • Shadow minister for housing and planning: John Healey

Who’s in?

Defence reportedly proved to be a tough chair to fill. Chris Bryant said he was offered the job but turned it down because he “profoundly disagrees” with the new leader on some defence issues.

Mr Corbyn opposes the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent, has questioned Britain’s membership of Nato, and has said Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine were “not unprovoked”.

A new cabinet role – shadow minister for mental health – has been created for Luciana Berger.

Ms Berger is a former director of Labour Friends of Israel, a group whose current head expressed “deep concern” over Mr Corbyn’s views on the Middle East during the leadership election.

Arguably the most controversial choice is John McDonnell, a lifelong left-winger and union activist, as shadow chancellor of the exchequer.

Jeremy Corbyn with Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall (Reuters)

Who’s out?

A number of former shadow cabinet members refused to serve under Mr Corbyn.

Chuka Umunna stood down as shadow business secretary, saying Mr Corbyn had not been able to reassure him that he would not back a British exit from the EU.

Former environment secretary Mary Creagh and energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint also stepped down, and Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Chris Leslie, Emma Reynolds and Jamie Reed said they would not accept shadow cabinet posts.

Ivan Lewis was axed from the Northern Ireland job despite offering to stay on to help break the political deadlock at Stormont.

Leadership contender Yvette Cooper does not have a role in the shadow cabinet but has not been cast into the wilderness: she will chair a Labour task force on the party’s response to the unfolding refugee crisis.

Heidi Alexander (Reuters)

Women problem?

Labour says this is the first shadow cabinet where the majority are women – they outnumber the men by 16 to 15.

Critics have complained that none of the four shadow positions that match the “great offices of state” – prime minister, chancellor, home secretary and foreign secretary – have been filled by women.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “It’s disappointing that virtually all of the most senior positions have gone to men. We need women in positions of real power at the very top of politics.”

But Mr Corbyn said Angela Eagle will take on an important role in the new shadow cabinet – standing in for the leader of the opposition at the dispatch box when David Cameron is not available for Prime Minister’s Questions.

And Mr McDonnell questioned the traditional hierarchy which ranks the “great offices of state” ahead of other ministerial roles, saying: “For most people the real top jobs are the ones that provide the services like health and education, those sorts of things.”

Skeletons in the cabinet?

Controversial past statements made by Mr Corbyn were reported heavily during the leadership contest, and there is now likely to be close scrutiny of the backgrounds of people close to the new leader.

John McDonnell’s appointment as shadow chancellor was greeted with dismay by some Labour MPs. Former home secretary Charles Clarke said he was “aghast” at the appointment, which showed that the moderate language Mr Corbyn used while running for the leadership “really was a load of nonsense”.

Other shadow cabinet members like Hilary Benn have declined to offer their full support to Mr McDonnell.

John McDonnell (Getty)

The 64-year-old defended his appointment today, saying: “I have got a long history in terms of financial administration. I was chancellor of the exchequer for London at the age of 29.”

He was chair of finance and deputy leader of the Greater London Council under Ken Livingstone, before being sacked by the future mayor of London.

Mr McDonnell favoured setting an illegal budget in defiance of the Conservative government’s rate-capping laws, while Mr Livingstone preferred a compromise.

The new shadow chancellor’s historic support for Irish republicanism has also been widely reported today.

In a 2003 speech, he praised the “bravery” of the IRA and the “sacrifice” of republicans like hunger striker Bobby Sands in a speech. He later told the Sun that the deaths of civilians in the conflict in Ulster was a “tragedy” but was “as a result of British occupation in Ireland”.

And in 2010 he told an audience of union members he would happily “go back to the 1980s and assassinate Thatcher”.

The remark came three years before the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was the target of an IRA assassination attempt in 1984.

Mr McDonnell’s entry in Who’s Who? lists one of his hobbies as “generally fermenting (sic) the overthrow of capitalism”.

The inner circle

Simon Fletcher: Mr Corbyn’s campaign director. Previously Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff.

Mr Fletcher is reportedly a former member of Socialist Action, a Trotskyist group whose alumni allegedly included several key Livingstone aides.

In 2013 he was appointed Labour’s trade union liaison manager by Ed Miliband, a move the Conservatives described as “a major lurch to the left”.

Kat Fletcher

Kat Fletcher (no relation): a key figure in the Corbyn campaign. Former president of the National Union of Students and the current deputy mayor of Islington council.

Worked as head of volunteers during Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign and tipped as a future Labour MP

Carmel Nolan: Mr Corbyn’s head of press. A former journalist, veteran left-wing activist and spokeswoman for the Stop the War Coalition, the campaign group chaired by the new Labour leader.

George Galloway wrote in his biography I’m Not the Only One that Nolan’s daughter Hope, then aged eight, came up with the idea of calling his new party Respect.

Richard Murphy

Richard Murphy: often described as the chief architect of Corbynomics, Murphy is credited with coming up with the policy of “people’s quantitative easing” and was even tipped by some as a potential shadow chancellor under Mr Corbyn.

A self-employed accountant, Murphy is hugely respected on the left for his work campaiging against corporate tax avoidance.

He says he is “open for discussions” about some kind of role within the new leader’s team.