Beast of Bolsover shakes Corbyn’s hand then sticks two fingers at Labour traitors
DENNIS SKINNER spoke for Labour members across Britain yesterday, sticking two fingers up at the MPs who have thrown the party into chaos by launching a coup against Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Corbyn was greeted with a frosty silence from plotting backbenchers as he arrived in the Commons for an urgent statement on the fallout from the EU referendum.
But the Beast of Bolsover staged a powerful show of solidarity with the embattled leader that may rank among his most memorable contributions to Parliament.
Breaking all parliamentary protocol, the veteran MP of 46 years left his familiar perch to the left of Labour’s front bench and approached the despatch box to shake Mr Corbyn’s hand and slap him on the shoulder.
Returning to his seat, he then flashed the V-sign to the MPs who deserted the shadow cabinet in a co-ordinated bid to bring down Mr Corbyn.
His instinctive display of frustration at the state of his party came after the second day of mass resignations which had seen 20 leave the shadow cabinet by the time the Star went to press.
The news spread rapidly online and provided a huge morale boost to Mr Corbyn on the day he began the fightback against the coup.
The leader attempted to move on from the mass resignations designed to destabilise him by appointing allies to 10 key positions, assembling a more left-wing and female front bench.
Emily Thornberry replaced Hilary Benn, who began the coup at 1am on Sunday morning, as shadow foreign secretary, while she was replaced in the defence brief by former soldier Clive Lewis.
Diane Abbott, who served as a shadow health minister under Ed Miliband, took the health portfolio and Kate Osamor replaced her as shadow international development secretary.
Andy McDonald, who was promoted to shadow transport secretary, said he believed MPs who quit the shadow cabinet did not make their decision based on the EU referendum result.
The Middlesborough MP said: “I think from the off there was a significant proportion of the Parliamentary Labour Party that was opposed to Jeremy’s leadership. I think this has presented an opportunity and I think it has been seized.
“We’ve lost some talented people but we’ve also got a lot of talented people who are willing to step forward.”
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said they would fill the remaining posts by last night, adding that it would include some “surprising names.”
But Green MP Caroline Lucas responded to speculation that she’d be among the surprises, saying there was “no truth” to the rumours.
The Brighton MP’s spokesman did say that “in particular she is keen to talk with other parties about the prospect of an electoral pact to beat the Tories in an early general election.”
Mr Corbyn will today face a vote of no confidence among parliamentarians after a fractious meeting with Labour MPs and peers in Parliament last night.
Critics hoped to forced Mr Corbyn to stand down but he was expected to tell MPs that they will have to beat him in a fresh leadership election.
“I was elected by hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters with an overwhelming mandate for a different kind of politics,” he said in a statement responding to the coup.
“I regret there have been resignations today from my shadow cabinet. But I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me — or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them.”
The Momentum campaign group staged a protest outside Parliament during the meeting to show solidarity with Mr Corbyn.
Spokesman Sam Tarry said: “It will still be an overwhelming win for him in a leadership contest. I think everyone knows that.
“What worries me is that the people in the PLP who have been resigning also know that. So what is their end game? It’s just crazy.”