Labour MP John Woodcock, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most vocal critics, says the re-election of the Labour leader was the result he dreaded — but urged colleagues to “make the best of it”.
Business Insider spoke to Woodcock moments after Corbyn triumphed in the party’s leadership contest in Liverpool on Saturday morning. Corbyn comfortably defeated Owen Smith with 61.8% of the vote.
Woodcock, who is the MP for Barrow-in-Furness, has been one of Labour’s most vocal critics of Corbyn’s leadership.
“Congratulations to Jeremy, obviously,” Woodcock said. “It is somewhat of an understatement to say this is not the result I was hoping for. I’m not his [Corbyn’s] greatest fan but I think we all just need to make the best of it now.”
Some 83% of voters who joined after the 2015 leadership contest voted for Corbyn, but the majority (63%) of long-standing members backed Smith. “He [Corbyn] has received a decisive vote from the new members,” Woodcock explained.
“But it’s really important that traditional members who voted differently stay in the party because Labour has got a proud history as a movement which changes peoples’ lives by winning elections. It remains so important that remains part of our future.”
In the speech he gave shortly after the announcement, Corbyn vowed to “bring the party together” after months of bitter conflict between his supporters and members who wanted to see him replaced by Smith. For Woodcock, Corbyn’s words mean little until reflected in practice.
“From the side of people who didn’t support Jeremy, I welcome those words, but I think it is really important that they are matched by actions from his team. One of the many difficulties of the last 12 months has been the impression of kindness that Jeremy has given from the podium was contradicted by the manner of which some of his team and supporters have worked.
One of the many difficulties of the last 12 months has been the impression of kindness that Jeremy has given from the podium was contradicted by the manner of which some of his team and supporters have worked.”
“But, if we are genuinely wiping the slate on both sides then that will be a good thing.”
One of the biggest conversations taking place in the party at the moment regards the prospect of Labour MPs who are critical of Corbyn being deselected and replaced by supporters of the leader. Corbyn refused to rule out a reselection process during a recent appearance on ITV.
Woodcock’s position would likely be under threat if such a process were to take place. After all, the Barrow-in-Furness branch voted overwhelmingly to back Corbyn in the leadership contest.
“All of that stuff is for another day,” Woodcock told BI. “If Jeremy is true to his word, then none of those kinds of threats from before the election will be carried through.”
“All of us are acutely aware that our first responsibility is to our constituents. All of us have hugely important issues to grapple with both locally in terms of the submarine investment in Barrow and nationally, us being an effective opposition on how Brexit is going to work and how we can avoid an economic downturn needs to take our attention.”
Asked whether he would accept a position in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet if offered, Woodcock said, jokingly: “I think it is unlikely my phone will be ringing”.
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