The chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has attacked Jeremy Corbyn claiming he had acted in bad faith during talks discussing the reintroduction of elections for shadow cabinet members. In a letter sent to all Labour MPs, John Cryer said the Islington North MP did "did not engage" in a plan to reunite the party after months of bitter infighting.
Cryer, the MP for Leyton and Wanstead, also complained that neither he nor sacked chief whip Rosie Winterton had been informed that the shadow cabinet reshuffle was going ahead until it was underway on Wednesday (5 October). Winterton was sacked in favour of Nick Brown, the longstanding MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East, who served as a whip and secretary to the Treasury under Gordon Brown.
Corbyn was reelected as Labour leader on 24 September with a landslide victory claiming 62% of the vote. On Friday (7 October) he completed his reshuffle with key ally Diane Abbott appointed as shadow home secretary, Tom Watson offered an olive branch in the form of the culture, media and sport brief and Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, a member of the party of just five months, made shadow attorney general.
Cryer, a veteran left-wing MP, denounced his leader's decision to start the reshuffle accusing him of failing to engage in talks about a partially elected shadow cabinet supported by the PLP. He said in the letter: "As you will be very much aware, at the beginning of September the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] voted overwhelmingly for the return of elections to the shadow cabinet.
"This has never implied that the entire shadow cabinet should be elected; neither the PLP or the parliamentary committee were prescriptive in that regard. This led to negotiations involving myself and the then chief whip, Rosie Winterton, and people from the leadership team.
"As far as Rosie and I were concerned, the talks were held in good faith with the aim of striking an agreement which would allow some places to be filled through elections while the leader would retain the right to appoint others.
"We held a number of meetings, most recently during Labour conference, and were genuinely hopeful that we could get to an agreement which would have the chance of drawing the PLP together so that we could go forward in a more unified manner than has hitherto been the case.
"However, it became clear on Wednesday that a reshuffle was under way, which had not been discussed or mentioned. It now seems to me that the party's leadership did not engage in the talks in any constructive way."
A spokesman for Corbyn defended the move saying: "Shadow cabinet elections will be considered by Labour's national executive committee as part of a wider party democratisation at a special meeting next month."
Within the reshuffle rebel MP Jon Ashworth became shadow health secretary but was removed by Corbyn from Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) replacing him with his ally Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary. The Guardian has reported that Ashworth was told that he would be forced off the NEC, regardless of whether he accepted the shadow health position.
Corbyn survived a vote of no confidence by the PLP in June after 63 MPs resigned citing his leadership during the EU referendum.