Camden Labour MPs who opposed Corbyn call for unity as speculation mounts over front bench future
PUBLISHED: 18:21 26 September 2016 | UPDATED: 10:42 27 September 2016
Both of Camden’s Labour MPs who backed Owen Smith in the leadership contest have called for party unity as speculation mounts over whether they will serve on Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench team if invited.
Mr Corbyn said he was keen to “wipe the slate clean” with MPs who have criticised his leadership following Saturday’s resounding victory, in which he was the clear choice of the members, affiliates and registered supporters.
Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer was one of the leaders of Owen Smith’s campaign and walked out of his job as a shadow immigration minister as part of the mass exodus from Labour’s front bench - but has not ruled out a return.
Mr Starmer told the Ham&High that it was time now for the party to stop talking about itself and concentrate on being an effective opposition.
He said: “After months of facing inwards, the Labour Party now needs to come together to face the challenges ahead, including the EU negotiations, which will define us for a generation, the deteriorating situation in Syria and the fight for inclusive schooling for all rather than selection.
“Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership and that result should be respected. He now needs to reach out and unite the party.”
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq voted for Mr Smith but remained relatively quiet during the leadership campaign, and defended Mr Corbyn when others blamed him for the Brexit vote.
Ms Siddiq offered her congratulations to Mr Corbyn and told the Ham&High: “Jeremy’s victory has proven once again that he has the support of the vast majority of members. This must be respected and we must now turn our fire on the Tory government.
“Internal elections, by their nature, pit friends and colleagues against each other - even when there is more that unites them.”
She added: “Labour is a broad church, full of vibrant debate, and we must come together to shape the policies that will convince the country to abandon this incompetent and regressive government.”
Hinting that she might be happy to serve in Mr Corbyn’s team - if asked - she said: “There are millions of people across our country who need a strong opposition and ultimately, a Labour government. I will be giving my all to achieve that outcome.”
Ms Siddiq has not held a shadow front bench role, having entered Parliament only last year, but is tipped by some commentators as “one to watch” - although proposed radical boundary changes to her constituency could leave her vulnerable at the next general election.
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West is one of the few Labour MPs to have remained loyal to Mr Corbyn - who she has known for years through her previous role as Islington Council leader.
Ms West remained quiet throughout the leadership contest, but it is understood she voted for Mr Corbyn - who she gave a vote of confidence to in the days following the Brexit result.
She remained part of Mr Corbyn’s front bench team as a shadow foreign office minister, but did not actively campaign on his behalf.
After the result was announced on Saturday, Ms West retweeted a message from the official Labour Party account, which borrowed the much-repeated words of the late Jo Cox MP: “In our party, we have much more in common than that which divides us.”
There has been speculation that rebel Labour MPs who have been particularly vocal in their criticism of Mr Corbyn could face reselection by their constituency branch ahead of the next general election.
Asked about reselection of sitting MPs on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Corbyn refused to rule it out, and said: “I wish them well.
“The relationship between an MP and their constituency is a complex one. It’s not necessarily all the policy tick-boxing exercise, it’s also the relationship with the community.
“Let’s have a democratic discussion - and I think the vast majority of MPs will have no problem whatsoever.”