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20 September 2016

NEC postpones elected shadow cabinet decision until Saturday

Some MPs hope an elected shadow cabinet would reunite the party. 

By Julia Rampen

Labour’s National Executive Committee has pushed back a decision on bringing back shadow cabinet elections until Saturday.

This means the announcement will come as the winner of the leadership election is revealed. How the NEC rules could shape the party for years to come.

The NEC did however agree to give more powers to the Scottish and Welsh Labour parties, such as control over Westminster candidate selections.

In 2011, Labour MPs held annual shadow cabinet elections when the party was in opposition. The practice was ended by Ed Miliband, who replaced the system with one of direct appointments (a move endorsed by 196 of Labour’s 257 MPs). When Jeremy Corbyn became leader last year he did not revive it, despite appeals from both supporters and opponents.  

As they searched for a means of managing their party’s divisions, Labour figures such as deputy leader Tom Watson increasingly discussed reinstating the elections

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On 6 September, Labour MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of bringing back elected shadow cabinets, with 169 supporting the idea and only 34 actively opposing it

But Corbyn threw a curveball at the plan, by proposing the party membership should be allowed to elect a third of shadow cabinet positions. This has done nothing to placate the fears of many MPs that they are being left to the mercy of the grassroots.

Not only has Corbyn proposed to put their careers in the hands of direct democracy, but he is seen as tacitly backing the return of deselection, which will further shift power to the constituency Labour parties. 

Adding pressure to internal debate are the proposed boundary changes, which will reduce the number of Labour seats available, and could be seized on by Corbyn allies as a chance to remake the party.