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Jeremy Corbyn restores Owen Smith in low-key reshuffle

The Labour leader has rewarded loyalists and demonstrated Labour's new unity by promoting his former leadership rival. 

Jeremy Corbyn has rewarded loyalists and brought Owen Smith, his opponent in the 2016 Labour leadership contest, back from the wilderness to serve as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in a demonstration of Labour’s newfound unity following the party’s surprise advance in the election on 8 June.

Smith, who worked as a special adviser to Paul Murphy when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, knows the politics of Northern Ireland well and is respected across all five of Northern Ireland’s major politics, making him well-placed to manage a tricky role. The portfolio’s importance has increased as the devolved government in Northern Ireland has collapsed and the DUP is negotiating with the Conservatives to prop up the latter party in Westminster following the loss of their majority.

The move, which signals that Labour’s divisions have been forgiven and forgotten, also is an astute internal move. The return of Smith has been welcomed across the parliamentary Labour party.

Elsewhere, in a reshuffle low on drama, Corbyn has moved to replace retiring MPs or those seeking a voluntary return to the backbenches. Lesley Laird, who won her seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath back from the SNP on Thursday, is promoted straight the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, replacing David Anderson, who retired when Parliament dissolved for the early election.

Andrew Gwynne, who won praise from the leader’s office and from Corbynsceptic MPs for his management of the election campaign, remains as election coordinator and is rewarded with a departmental brief, that of Communities and Local Government, taking over from Teresa Pearce.

The low-key reshuffle, which left the bulk of the Shadow Cabinet unchanged, is intended to reward loyalty while signalling that Labour is now united and that its internal conflict is behind it.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.