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21 March 2012updated 07 Sep 2021 10:54am

Labour must remain a “broad church”, says Corbyn

The Labour leader sought to calm nerves over deselection with a conciliatory message at the PLP.

By Patrick Maguire

Has Jeremy Corbyn heeded Chuka Umunna’s plea to “call off the dogs” from his Commons critics?

Addressing the first meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party after a tricky recess, Corbyn attempted to ease tensions over moves to censure and deselect MPs with a conciliatory appeal for unity.

“The Labour Party has always been a broad church and I’m determined it remains so,” he said.

“We will always have some differences of opinion and we must protect the right of criticism and debate but our first and overwhelming priority is to deliver for the people we represent and remove this Conservative government from office.

“We must focus on that priority and turn our fire outwards.”

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It’s emollient rhetoric and engages with the leader’s critics on the terms they have been asking for. But can it – and will it – satisfy Corbynsceptics?

“I know what it feels like to be the target of a no confidence vote,” Corbyn said. “But it would be wrong for me to intervene in the democratic rights of any part of the Labour Party.”

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That is consistent with what Corbyn and indeed Momentum have always said about the prospect of deselections: that they are purely a matter for local parties. But it is a refusal to intervene: his critics are likely to see it as a tacit licence for unrest at the grassroots to continue unabated. Coming just hours after Rosie Duffield was censured by her party for speaking out over anti-Semitism, to them it misses the point.