Sebastian Payne

Jeremy Corbyn’s first week as Labour leader: a series of gaffes, u-turns and general chaos

Jeremy Corbyn’s first week as Labour leader: a series of gaffes, u-turns and general chaos
Text settings

Harold Wilson’s remark that ‘a week is a long time in politics’ has never been more apt than at the beginning of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The hopey-changey rhetoric that lead him to victory last Saturday has inevitably given way to a more traditional form of compromise politics. While Corbyn’s debut at the Dispatch Box was the high point of his first week as Labour leader, the rest of his time has been devoted to fighting fires — literally in one incident.

Women in the shadow cabinet: Sky News’ Darren McCaffrey revealed how the first Corbyn shadow cabinet was put together last Sunday and how the Labour leader attempted to deal with a lack of women shadowing the Great Offices of State. Instead of making Angela Eagle shadow chancellor, Corbyn stuck with his long-time friend John McDonnell. But as criticism mounted of this decision mounted, an aide decided ‘we need to do a Mandelson. Let’s make Angela shadow first minister of state. Like Mandelson was. She can cover PMQs. Tom (Watson) knows about this’. Corbyn and his team have repeatedly pointed out that more than half of his shadow cabinet is female.

EU referendum: As James said on the podcast this week, Corbyn is much more Eurosceptic in private than he is currently letting on. Chuka Umunna declined to serve in his shadow cabinet because Corbyn would not confirm Labour would campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, come what may. On Monday’s Today programme, the shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said he would be campaigning for ‘Remain’ regardless of the Prime Minister's new deal. After days of uncertainty about his position, Corbyn said in an article for the FT today ‘Labour is clear that we should remain in the EU’.

Corporation tax: The new shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said Labour will tackle the deficit by ‘halting the tax cuts to corporations’. But as Guido reports, Labour backed cutting Corporation Tax to 18 per cent last night as part of the Finance Bill. During the Commons debate, the shadow treasury minister Barbara Keeley said ‘Labour is in favour of support for businesses, which is what we need to discuss as we consider the clause’.

IRA comments: McDonnell was judged to be a controversial appointment to the shadow chancellor, not least because of his past remarks about ‘honouring’ the IRA. On last night’s Question Time, the shadow chancellor had a change of heart and accepted it was a ‘mistake to use the words’ in 2003: ‘If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise, I apologise’.

National anthem: At the Battle of Britain memorial service, Corbyn put himself on almost every front page by standing silently during God Save The Queen. His spokesman said ‘he stood in respectful silence during the anthem’. But Labour later clarified he would sing the anthem in the future.

Cameraman in hospital: James Webb, a BBC cameraman, was admitted to hospital after being knocked to the ground outside Corbyn’s home. It was later revealed to be as a result of an incident with a Government Car Service vehicle.

Welfare Bill: Despite having a majority of just 16, the government managed to pass its controversial cuts to tax credits by a majority of 35. Isabel reported that this was a result of Labour's shambolic whipping operation.

Labour HQ on fire: Just two days after Corbyn was elected leader, the Labour party's HQ in Westminster was evacuated after a fire in a neighbouring building. While some staffers have left HQ for pastures new, this incident was out of Corbyn’s control.

A fiery education spokesman: Topping off his first week as leader, Corbyn has announced this afternoon that Mike Watson, a Labour peer, has joined his team as an education spokesman. As Fraser explains, Watson happens to be a convicted arsonist who drunkenly set fire to some curtains after an awards ceremony in 2004.