Corbyn rebukes critics and hints at shadow cabinet reshuffle

Jeremy Corbyn told critical MPs that the parliamentary party is 'not the totality of the Labour party'
Jeremy Corbyn told critical MPs that the parliamentary party is 'not the totality of the Labour party'

Jeremy Corbyn insisted he was “not going anywhere” as he prepared to mark his first 100 days as Labour leader with a defiant message to hostile MPs.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, he said people should not “obsess” about him but rather put their talents to work for the party.

And he did not rule out a shadow cabinet reshuffle to remove critics.

Asked if he expected to lead the opposition in the 2020 general election campaign, he said: “Absolutely. I’m not going anywhere.”

He urged MPs to “recognise” the scale of grassroots support that swept him to a surprise landslide victory in the election contest and denied critics were being targeted by a “mob” of Corbynite backers.

Deputy leader Tom Watson has described the pro-Corbyn Momentum organisation which emerged from the leadership campaign as a “rabble”.

But the leader, who will pass the landmark on Monday, said: “They should recognise that I was elected with a very large mandate from a very wide variety of people from all parts of the movement.

“There is no imposition of any mob. What there is is a development of participatory democracy. The parliamentary party is a part of the party, a very important part, but it is not the totality of the Labour party.”

He said: “I would encourage them to share their talents with all of us, not keep it to themselves. Some people are more difficult to reach than others. They shouldn’t obsess about me.”

Mr Corbyn has faced dissent at meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which is profoundly split over his views on issues such as opposition to the renewal of Trident and air strikes in Syria.

He was scathing about the rapturous reception given to shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn’s speech in favour of the military action against Islamic State, credited with encouraging some of the dozens of Labour MPs who voted in favour, in defiance of the leader’s stance.

“I did not agree with it. I was appalled that MPs should clap, shout and cheer when we were deciding to go and bomb somewhere. Parliament is supposed to be serious. It’s not a place for jingoistic cheering.”

Mr Benn has been tipped by some for the sack in a shake-up of the front team in the new year.

“There will be appointments when appointments are made,” Mr Corbyn said when asked about a reshuffle.

He said predecessor Ed Miliband was “a great guy and a great friend” who he would work with “in any way he wants to work with me”.

Complaining about the public airing of disagreements, he added: “We should hold shadow cabinet meetings in public. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t leak.”

Mr Corbyn said he seeks to spend no more than three-and-a-half days at week at Westminster – insisting on keeping up his role as a constituency MP and touring the country.