War of words as McGinn quits whip post

Conor McGinn MP
Conor McGinn MP

A St Helens MP has been caught up in the latest Labour Party row after stepping down from his post as a junior whip.

Conor McGinn, the parliamentary representative for St Helens North, was slammed by a source close to party leader Jeremy Corbyn after he resigned following the controversial sacking of chief whip Rosie Winterton.

Mr McGinn thanked Ms Winterton, describing her as “outstanding”, and insisted the new chief whip Nick Brown had offered him the chance to remain in his role.

However, the Labour source branded him “disloyal” and insisted he jumped before he was pushed.

The source said: “No one will lose any sleep over Conor McGinn resigning after the disloyalty he showed in organising resignations during the attempted coup.”

The exchange comes as Mr Corbyn finalises a bruising re-shuffle which has seen some MPs who previously rebelled against his leadership return to the fold while others prepare to step up their opposition.

Mr Corbyn moved to ease disquiet at the thrust of the front bench shake-up by revealing that 10 MPs who had previously walked out on him have now returned to serve.

However, the total of returnees is still just a quarter of the 63 MPs in shadow posts who turned their backs on him in the mass walk-out after the shock Brexit referendum vote, though there are more posts still to fill.

Mr Corbyn said: “I am pleased to announce the appointment of 21 MPs to our front bench, 14 of whom are women and four of whom are from the black and minority ethnic community.

“I welcome back the 10 who have returned, and look forward to working with the eight talented MPs joining the front bench for the first time.”

The 10 MPs returning to the Corbyn fold are Jack Dromey, Pat Glass, Sharon Hodgson, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Kevin Brennan, Louise Haigh, Jenny Chapman, Matthew Pennycook, Nick Thomas-Symonds and Emma Lewell-Buck.

The return of the clutch of MPs who had previously quit in protest at the leadership gives Mr Corbyn the chance to steady the ship after a tumultuous few days since he began reshaping his top team.

The appointments follow reports that leading anti-Corbyn figures are preparing to organise their own “shadow shadow cabinet” in direct competition with the official front bench, which will produce its own policy initiatives.

The senior moderate in Mr Corbyn’s top team expressed a relaxed attitude to the emergence of such a body.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said there were “unresolved” issues in the parliamentary party after Mr Corbyn’s reshuffle, a shake-up which saw Labour plunged back into in-fighting.

Sir Keir said: “We do need to resolve them as soon as possible. We need to be an outward-looking, confident party rather than an inward, divided party, so we need to address that.

“I respect colleagues who want to make their voice heard from different places, whether it’s the back bench, the mid-bench, through select committees, or on the front bench.”