Nerves over Corbyn’s leadership

Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham
Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham
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Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said shadow team had to ‘second guess’ Mr Corbyn’s views, comments were made ‘on the hoof’ and there’s nerves and anticipation because they ‘don’t really know much about him’.

THE newest recruit to Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow team said she would be ‘extremely worried’ for the party if top rank disagreements aren’t ironed out within six months - and admits she hasn’t even spoken to him yet.

Sarah Champion is the newly appointed Labour shadow chair for preventing abuse but said the very public split in views on Europe, Nato and welfare among the shadow cabinet hadn’t been the best start to Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

“I don’t think it looks good but I’m not giving too much credence to it. If it was like this in six months time I would be extremely worried. We need to give him a bit of grace,” said Ms Champion, who despite nominating him is yet to meet to meet her new boss because he’s been too busy.

“In an ideal world all of those conversations would have happened behind closed doors over the summer so that Parliament comes back and everything would have been sorted out, but because of the timetable they were playing out live and everything is brought out on the hoof.”

She described a growing air of nervousness and anticiption among the shadow team, because ‘we don’t really know much’ about Mr Corbyn and that the change in leadership ‘is scary’. The appointments process is being ‘played out live’ because new shadow ministers have been left second guessing the new leaders’ views, she added.

“People are nervous because we are not quite sure what’s going to happen. We don’t really know very much about Jeremy Corbyn. He’s not been on the front bench. Views were gained over speeches that he’s done and early day motions he’s signed.

“I don’t know anything about his style as a leader. If he had been a shadow secretary of state we would know his style.

“It’s understandable that people are nervous because change is scary but we do need to see what’s going to happen going foward and that’s the feeling,” she said.

Her comments come as former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling has urged Jeremy Corbyn to make his policies clear if he wants “get off the ground”.

In a swipe at the leader’s difficult first week, Mr Darling, who stood down at the General Election, said he must recognise the importance of first impressions.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “What I would say if I had a conversation with him is he must know first impressions gained by the electorate, especially of a party leader, tend not to go away - and less than a week after he was elected he needs to spell out where he stands on key issues like the economy because if he doesn’t, frankly he’s never going to get off the ground.”

A confusing array of views coming out of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet this week are down to the appointements being made infront of the full glare of the media, said Ms Champion.

Shadow foreign secretary and Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn this week told the Yorkshire Post his views differ from Mr Corbyn’s over backing Nato. He then said the party wanted to remain in Europe in ‘all circumstances’, however Mr Corbyn has historically had a lukewarm attitude to the EU.

While he told the Trade Union Congress meeting in Brighton that the welfare cap should be completely scrapped, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith contradicted him again by saying Labour would oppose the Government’s reduction of the cap but not get rid of it.

Ms Champion said: “If you think about it, he made appointments on Saturday and people were doing interviews within hours, so people were trying to second guess him.”

She is understood to have been offered other positions from Mr Corbyn but held out for a job that matched her expertise, after campaigning to expose widescale abuse in Rotherham since she won her seat in a by-election in 2012.

In this new era of consultation, the 46-year-old even managed to change her job title from its original gender specific ‘preventing violence against women and girls’.

She said: “Abuse happens to both genders so it was agreed it would be called preventing abuse and domestic violence.”

However despite being among the small number of MPs who nominated Mr Corbyn so he could run for election, she’s yet to have a chat with him about what he wants from her role because he’s been ‘ridiculously busy’.

“I will be working for Andy Burnham and we have already spoken about it,” she said.

“I started working on child exploitation before the Rotherham and the Professor Jay report came out and I was looking at it natioanlly. Since the report came out it confirmed that this is a big issue nationally.”

Labour’s final front-bench line-up includes the following Yorkshire MPs in various new positions:

Rachel Maskell, York Central, shadow defence; Nic Dakin, Scunthorpe, shadow schools minister; Diana Johnson, Hull North, shadow Foreign Office and Commonwealth; Karl Turner, Hull East, shadow law officer; Melanie Onn, Great Grimsby, shadow leader’s office; Richard Burgon, Leeds East, shadow treasury. Judith Cummins, Bradford South, and Holly Lynch, Halifax, have both been appointed as whips.