Jeremy Corbyn will be left with a “politburo of seven” if he moves against senior critics in Labour, a shadow cabinet member has said, amid speculation he will dramatically shake up his top team.
Michael Dugher, whose job as shadow culture secretary is reportedly at risk, insisted Labour is a “broad church not a religious cult” and warned Mr Corbyn that a big reshuffle would be inconsistent with his calls for debate in the party.
Mr Dugher is one of several senior figures said to be under threat in a so-called “revenge reshuffle” alongside shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, who backed bombing Islamic State in Syria, and shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, who supports the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons, both in opposition to Mr Corbyn.
It was reported that Mr Benn, the Leeds Central MP, could be offered another shadow cabinet post - which would be viewed as a demotion.
A shadow cabinet reshuffle would reduce the risk of the leader and his frontbenchers speaking at cross purposes, but could trigger a wave of resignations.
Sacking Mr Dugher, who also voted for bombing in Syria, could anger allies such as deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow home secretary Andy Burnham.
Responding to the reports, the shadow culture secretary called for unity ahead of May’s local elections and said he thought Mr Corbyn would be reluctant to carry out a big reshuffle.
Mr Dugher said: “I think if you believe the Sunday papers then you’re going to be left with a shadow cabinet, a sort of politburo of seven or something.
“I mean frankly if you listen to John McDonnell this week, he was saying exactly the same things that I’ve been saying this week, as Jonathan Ashworth, Lilian Greenwood and others about the fact the party needs to come together, we need unity and we need to have the focus on the Tories not ourselves.”
Mr Dugher stressed that the shadow cabinet was appointed four months ago amid Mr Corbyn’s calls for “a new politics” and so a move to remove critics would be inconsistent “with what Jeremy has talked about since he got the leadership, which is about room for a little dissent, about having debates.”
Writing in the Observer, Stephen Kinnock, son of former leader Lord Kinnock, warned that a reshuffle would be a “waste of time and energy” while fellow 2015 intake MPs Wes Streeting and Neil Coyle also raised concerns.
Mr Streeting said: “Over Christmas, we should have been taking the Tories to task over their budget cuts for flood defences. Instead, damaging briefing from the top of the party meant Labour’s main message was about a shadow cabinet reshuffle.”
Mr Coyle said: “The idea that Corbyn must only include clones and drones in the shadow cabinet is farcical.”
Meanwhile, Labour former minister Kim Howells described Mr Corbyn and his team as “superannuated Trotskyite oppositionists” who had bought the party to its knees.
He said: “Look, when I saw Ed Miliband standing under a big lump of stone, the ‘Edstone’, I began to realise that the Labour Party had fallen under the control of lunatics and I’m not sure it escaped that control, I think they’ve probably gone even deeper in that embrace because they feel so much more comfortable there.”