Jeremy Corbyn shadow cabinet: Angela Eagle handed top job after party criticised for lack of women in top roles

An aide reportedly admitted the Labour Party was "taking a fair amount of s***"

Kashmira Gander
Monday 14 September 2015 22:13 BST

Details have emerged of the chaos which erupted in Jeremy Corbyn’s camp after the new Labour leader was attacked for failing to assign senior shadow cabinet roles to women, amid reports that Angela Eagle was given a top position to ease tensions.

Following his landslide victory on Saturday, Mr Corbyn began putting together his shadow cabinet, having previously won praise for pledging to strike an equal gender balance with is choices.

However, as John McDonnell, Andy Burnham and Hilary Benn were handed what are considered to be the great offices of state - after Tom Watson won the position of deputy leader - Mr Corbyn was quickly criticised for his male-dominated top team.

Labour MP for Hull North, Diana Johnson, was among those to raise the issue on Twitter, and called the lack of women "very disappointing".

Angela Eagle, who was previously tipped for the shadow chancellor role, was among the women brought into Mr Corbyn's cabinet, as shadow business secretary.

However, questions over the motive for the appointment were raised after Ms Eagle was also confirmed as first shadow secretary of state, a position previously held by Peter Mandelson, around two hours later at 12:19am, The Guardian reported. The additional role would see her deputise the Labour Leader at Question Time.

According to reports by Sky News, the new leader’s adviser Simon Fletcher warned “we are taking a fair amount of **** out there about women" after Mr Corbyn and his team became aware of complaints online.

"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. Do the Angela bit now," he added, according to the broadcaster.

The account was also mirrored by reports by The Guardian and the BBC. A Labour source told the former that Ms Eagle was given the top role over concerns about the gender balance of Mr Corbyn’s top team.

Female figures who also won roles in the shadow cabinet included Lucy Powell as education secretary, Maria Eagle as defence secretary, and Diane Abbott as secretary of state for international development.

Mr Corbyn later hit back at accusations that his appointments were sexist, and said that his critics were "living in the 18th Century" by insisting that the traditional Treasury, home affairs and foreign affairs briefs as the most important. Speaking to reporters outside Labour HQ, he pointed out that the majority of his shadow cabinet was female.

His newly announced shadow chancellor earlier defended Mr Corbyn, and also said that health and education portfolios are in fact more important.

"It is interesting, Jeremy said very, very clearly that we don't accept the hierarchical nature of what we have inherited by these supposed top jobs. They largely stem from the 19th century when you had an empire and all that," he told Sky News.

"For most people the real top jobs are the ones that provide the services like health and education, those sorts of things. So he has broken with that tradition and I'm really pleased."

He added: "You can't say that Foreign Secretary is more important than delivering education to our children, or the health of the people of this population."

Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers said: "We welcome Jeremy Corbyn's commitment to a 50:50 cabinet and we congratulate those women appointed so far.

"But it's not only a numbers game. It's disappointing that virtually all of the most senior positions have gone to men. We need women in positions of real power at the very top of politics."

Additional reporting by PA

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