CANDIDATES contesting the Labour leadership battle have insisted they would not include left-wing rival Jeremy Corbyn in their Shadow Cabinets despite his increasing support among party members.
Shadow minister Liz Kendall said the Opposition’s top team would need to be “serious and credible”, adding that they would need to take on “very difficult issues” while also inspiring Labour supporters.
Aides to frontrunner Andy Burnham confirmed he could not “envisage any circumstances” where Mr Corbyn would be on his frontbench, insisting the Shadow Health Secretary was joking when he told a BBC debate he “might be open to listening”.
In contrast, Mr Corbyn said Ms Kendall “would be there” in his Shadow Cabinet, adding: “I’m sure Liz and I could find some common ground on some issues somewhere.
“We may not have the same economic direction.”
Fellow candidate Yvette Cooper, the MP for Pontefract and Castleford, stressed that she did not want to “prejudge” the issue.
Mr Corbyn has defied his initial rank outsider status to replace Ed Miliband, the Doncaster North MP who stepped down after Labour’s disastrous result in the General Election in May, by securing the most nominations so far from constituency parties and reportedly topping some private opinion polls.
But Ms Kendall stressed that she would not have Mr Corbyn in her Shadow Cabinet, adding: “I believe you need to have a serious and credible Shadow Cabinet with people who are prepared to take on the very difficult issues we face as a party, as well as inspiring our supporters with a clear vision for the future.
“We’ve always been a broad church as a Labour Party but I think my politics comes from a very different place from Jeremy’s and it wouldn’t be right for him to be in my Shadow cabinet.”
Labour’s Diane Abbott, who is a supporter of Mr Corbyn, said she did not believe the Islington North MP could win the leadership contest.
Asked if Mr Corbyn could win, she said: “No. These stories about where he comes first – no-one has seen such polls, that is a silly story. But he is doing very well and the reason Jeremy is doing very well is that the things Jeremy is talking about – peace abroad, social justice at home – are things that chime with Labour Party members.
“The sneering at Jeremy for believing in things that actually millions of people believe in – like we shouldn’t be bombing Syria – and the attempt to abuse Labour Party members, we are hearing they are mad, that they are having a tantrum, that doesn’t play well.”
The endorsements for the leadership contenders also continued, with Ms Kendall receiving the backing of former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling.
Former Foreign Secretary Dame Margaret Beckett, one of 34 MPs who nominated Mr Corbyn, tipped Mr Burnham as the candidate most likely to win back power in 2020. Dame Margaret, who led the party for a brief spell after the sudden death of John Smith, said she lent her backing to Mr Corbyn to promote the widest possible debate, but had never intended voting for him.
Ladbrokes has cut its odds on a victory for Mr Corbyn to just 10/3 – a far cry from the 100/1 offered at the start of the contest – making him the third favourite behind Mr Burnham at 10/11 and Shadow Home Secretary Ms Cooper at 11/4, but ahead of Ms Kendall out at 10/1.
The new leader will be announced in September.