Jeremy Corbyn makes first move to rein in rebellious Labour MPs

The Labour leader wants his new army to have a bigger say in policy

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Indy Politics

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will make his first concrete move to strengthen his power over rebellious MPs next month by “consulting” on plans to give new control over policy to his army of supporters. 

In a private meeting in Parliament on 9 December, Mr Corbyn’s aides told MPs that the influential National Policy Forum – set up by Tony Blair to get a grip on policy-making – would be overhauled and replaced by a new system.

Mr Corbyn (inset) wants to see party members consulted in more “e-referendums” – a device he used to gauge opinion on Syrian air strikes before the House of Commons vote earlier this month. He also wants the annual party conference to be given much more say on policy.

MPs fear Mr Corbyn plans to use the consultation to give the thousands of new supporters, who paid £3 for a vote in the leadership election, voting rights in Labour constituency parties – a move that would further reinforce his power. Currently “three-pounders” have no formal role and would have to sign up again to take part in another leadership election. MPs told The IoS the proposal would take the party “back to the bad old days” of chaotic party conferences riven by public rows and hijacked by the hard left.


The proposal raises the prospect of Mr Corbyn flooding the conference with supportive delegates, to propose motions overturning settled policy agreements on issues such as the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.

Mr Corbyn’s plan was revealed at a meeting of backbench MPs who chair policy committees. The MPs have been referred to collectively as the “shadow, shadow cabinet” and come from the right of the party opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership. They include former shadow ministers Emma Reynolds, Tristram Hunt, Jamie Reed, Chris Leslie and Caroline Flint.

The Labour leader’s policy chief, Neale Coleman, attended on behalf of Mr Corbyn. After unveiling the plan to call for more online surveys, one MP told him it sounded like a “trollacracy” – in reference to the anonymous internet “trolls” who send abusive messages.

The former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said that Mr Corbyn’s proposal risked undermining a system which had kept all sections of the party united.

He said: “Those of us who’ve attended the National Policy Forum have valued the chance of a more detailed, two-way policy dialogue including all sections of the party. It would be deeply regrettable if we lost that process and went back to the confrontational process of the 1980s. We need urgent clarification from Jeremy about his intentions here.”

MPs at the meeting demanded Mr Corbyn explain the proposals to them in person early in the new year, The IoS understands. The National Policy Forum is the backbone of Labour’s official policy-making process – bringing together all strands of the party to iron out differences behind closed doors before presenting agreements to party conference to be rubber stamped. But Mr Corbyn believes the system is undemocratic and wants to give delegates much more say in open debate at conference. 

The Labour leader was a prominent figure in the late Tony Benn’s failed Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in the 1980s, which campaigned to give members more say over policy. Mr Benn and Mr Corbyn also called for the mandatory reselection of MPs – although the Labour leader insists he has no intention of changing the rules to make it easier to remove the party’s sitting MPs.

However, because of the forthcoming review of constituency boundaries – which will be completed by October 2018 as part of David Cameron’s plan to cut the number of parliamentary seats from 650 to 600 – all Labour MPs will have to be formally reselected by their local parties.

The Corbynite movement Momentum was set up to build on the surge that swept Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership (Getty)

Mr Corbyn’s allies in Parliament want to use the threat of deselection to control the vast majority of Labour MPs who oppose the current leadership. He is also being encouraged to overhaul his Shadow Cabinet in a new year reshuffle and get control of the party’s permanent staff which are still seen as being too loyal to the old guard.

One senior aide close to Mr Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said there were too many people who were “experts in losing” who had set their face against the new leadership. He said people should expect a “new start in the new year”, with an overhaul of the party’s front bench team of shadow ministers to give Mr Corbyn more support over key policy decisions.

It comes amid increasing concerns over the influence of the new pressure group Momentum, set up by Mr Corbyn’s supporters. The group campaigns alongside the Labour Party but is not affiliated and has come under fire over allegations it is being used as a vehicle of the hard left to pressure local constituency parties into deselecting moderate MPs.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has called on Mr Corbyn to state publicly that Momentum has nothing to do with the Labour Party. MPs fear the Labour leader will push for the group to be given an official position within the party, alongside other socialist groups such the Fabian Society.

Mr Corbyn has also come under fire this weekend for his links to the Stop the War coalition.