Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to unite Labour after he was re-elected as the party’s leader on Saturday — but again refused to rule out the deselection of Labour MPs once the new boundary map comes into play.
Asked whether MPs who have criticised his leadership should be worried about deselection, Corbyn — who won 61.8% of the vote to see-off challenger Owen Smith — failed to totally rule out this possibility when he spoke to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
“They have [Labour MPs] got no need to worry because it’s all about democracy,” he said.
“We are all democratically accountable to our party and our constituents. It is not my decision. I am not a leader who will impose things on constituencies.”
The plan to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons by implementing a new boundary map means Labour-held constituencies may have to reselect their MPs. There is concern among moderate Labour MPs that they could be thrown out and replaced by candidates who are more supportive of the Labour leader.
But Corbyn said his focus lies elsewhere. “The priority is the policies, the priority is is politics, the priority is campaigning, and that’s what we’re doing,” he stressed.
- LABOUR MP JOHN WOODCOCK: Corbyn’s “unity” talk must be reflected by actions
The party’s leadership campaign has been a bruising one, defined by bitter confrontation between supporters of the left-wing leader and more moderate MPs. Corbyn said he could build bridges between the party’s two factions.
Speaking at the party’s conference in Liverpool which Business Insider attended, the Islington North MP said:
“The party is united around our economic strategy, united around our education ideas, united around our NHS strategy, united around the inequality and injustice that exists in Britain, and now that this election is over, the party has an opportunity to come together and get that message out.
“In broad terms, towards the end of the campaign, we [Owen and I] weren’t differing that much on economic strategy and I welcome that. That’s fine — let’s go forward on that. You’ll see a sense of unity around the party.
“Already I’ve had on my phone, and over text, messages of support from people who want to get on with it and get on board and get out there campaigning and that’s what we’ll be doing… Lots of MPs”
“I am reaching out on all the policy areas we’ve put forward. There is a need to strengthen democracy within the party … That includes proposals for elections to the shadow cabinet. That is absolutely in the mix and is what we are discussing at the moment. You’ll see a lot of changes over the next few weeks.”
As expected, Corbyn defeated Smith in comfortable fashion, winning with an even larger mandate than he received in last year’s leadership contest.
“I think a lot of party members, supporters, and affiliated supporters were happy with the general direction I was trying to take the party, particularly opposition to austerity and offering a real economic alternative,” he said. “They felt I should be given the chance and opportunity to follow that through.”
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