After almost three days of negotiations and two weeks of briefing, what is probably the longest reshuffle in history is over. The minute-by-minute blows of Corbyn’s first reshuffle can be found here on the LabourList live blog, however there are 5 things that the whole ordeal can tell us about the current dynamics within the Labour Party:
1. Corbyn’s team are worried about the Conservatives “security” attack line. Removing Pat McFadden for simply implying in the Syria debate that Corbyn’s foreign policy “infantilises terrorists” is a big move and shows they are serious about responding to it.
2. Ken Livingstone has serious influence. Maria Eagle’s move out of Shadow Defence because of her views on Trident and her annoyance at Livingstone being appointed to jointly head up the party’s defence review is illustrative of this. They have been fighting in the press for weeks. It was always suspected that Ken would wield some influence – Corbyn’s office is full of people like Simon Fletcher and Jack Smith who cut their teeth in City Hall with Ken – but the amount of influence he has wielded so far has shocked some insiders.
3. Burnham’s people are no longer immune. Along with Len McCluskey’s private fondness for Burnham, the fact the former leadership candidate’s heavyweight supporters joined the Shadow Cabinet meant it looked like a truce with Corbyn had been called. However, the public sacking of his campaign chief Dugher is a shot across the bows.
4. The “Anyone But Corbyn” MPs are getting organised. Almost as soon as Dugher was removed texts went out to MPs and prominent Labour figures with the lines to take in support of him. The ensuing outpouring of dismay on social media from MPs would have helped to close down Corbyn’s options. Whilst these texts/WhatsApp groups are standard practice now, what is more interesting is the rumoured NATO-style pact amongst moderate members of the Shadow Cabinet which would mean mass resignations if key moderates are removed from posts. This might have been what saved Benn.
5. Never give the media no information. The amount of coverage of this reshuffle is impressive – people normally ignore shadow reshuffles at the best of times let alone so close to a crushing election result. Can you remember any of Iain Duncan Smith’s reshuffles? However the total lack of information meant that commentators filled the void with speculation and stopped Corbyn getting cut through on his rail fare campaign or his comments in the house.