SENIOR Coventry Labour politicians have warned of party splits and electoral defeat following Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election as leader.
City MPs and many leading Labour Coventry council figures backed the other so-called ‘centre left’ candidates who lost to the more left-wing Mr Corbyn on Saturday, who emerged victorious with a landslide near 60 per cent of votes.
Mr Corybn is today busy appointing his shadow cabinet while some longstanding Labour frontbenchers – including two other leadership candidates Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, and Coventry born MP Mary Creagh – announced they would refuse to serve in his shadow cabinet.
Former Blairite minister Geoffrey Robinson, Labour MP for Coventry North west, told the Coventry Observer today: “He won in all three categories (fully paid up members, affiliated members and registered supporters).
“There is a great disenchantment with the way politics had been carried out throughout the Western democratic world – and we have to take note.”
Mr Robinson, who voted for Ms Cooper, added: “I believed it should have been one of the others.
“It gives us an opportunity to radically rethink our position on the centre left of British politics as opposed to the extreme left.
“Whether Yvettte and the others did themselves justice I don’t know, but they were fighting against a force they hadn’t reckoned with.”
He dismissed last week’s rumours he might be invited to join Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, adding he would seek to continue offering advice to the frontbench when sought as an experienced politician.
Colleen Fletcher, elected to the Commons for the first time this year as the new MP for Coventry North east replacing Bob Ainsworth, said: “I’m not particularly a far-left thinking person, but we have to get behind him.
“I remember the 1980s and great divisions in the party. The electorate don’t like splits… I want to see a strong leader who can get people to vote for us.”
She said Mr Corbyn would have to make “compromises” with the right of the party, and suggested that could have already happened with the appointment of some of his shadow cabinet.
Coventry city Labour councillor Jim O’Boyle, who also voted for Ms Cooper, is also concerned about the party’s electoral prospects of a move to the left.
He said the vote indicated “seasoned members” of the Labour party – as opposed to new entrants – were “more circumspect” about Mr Corbyn.
He said Labour had lost Scotland and support across the country not because the party “was not left wing enough”, but because of antipathy towards a “perceived Westminster establishment”.
He said many Labour MPs embodied a typical type of middle class politician far removed from ordinary people, adding Mr Corbyn was also from such a background.
He welcomed young people joining the party – many of whom signed up in support of Corbyn – but added many of them would not be familiar with “what happened in the 1980s” when the party under left-wing leadership was routed by the Thatcherite Conservatives.
Coventry South Labour MP Jim Cunningham, who backed Yvette Cooper, said: “We’ve got to get together an get behind him (Jeremy Corbyn). He’s been elected with an overwhelming majority. We have to give him a chance.”
One of the first people from outside the Labour Party to welcome Mr Corbyn’s victory was ex Labour MP and ex-Coventry Socialist councillor Dave Nellist, who was thrown out of the party in the 1990s in a purge of left-wingers.
Mr Nellist, who served in the Commons as MP alongside Mr Corbyn in the 1980s, now heads the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
He said: “Jeremy’s victory will now give a voice to the depth of anti-austerity feeling in Britain.
“He has clearly inspired huge numbers, particularly young people, with his call for free education, public ownership of rail and energy, and for councils to stand together in opposition to government cuts.
“… We will also be making plans to write to every Labour candidate standing in next May’s elections to ask for a meeting with them to see how much they are prepared to back their new leader’s anti-austerity stance.
“In particular we will be asking Labour candidates if they agree with us that Labour councils should now combine together and refuse to implement the Tories’ brutal austerity agenda.
“Where we get a positive answer from Labour councillors or candidates we look forward to the possibilities of joint action against austerity.
“Where, however, Labour councillors or candidates are not prepared to follow Jeremy’s stance in opposing George Osborne’s austerity agenda, then TUSC will again stand widely in the May 2016 elections in England and Wales and Scotland.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow cabinet includes his left wing ally John McDonnell as shadow chancellor.
Defeated leadership rival Andy Burnham is shadow home secretary, Hilary Benn stays on as shadow foreign secretary, and Diane Abbott is shadow minister for international development.