Jeremy Corbyn has followed Theresa May’s reshuffle with one of his own, bringing close ally Clive Lewis back to his frontbench and promoting some new MPs.
Mr Lewis, a former shadow cabinet member once tipped as a future leader and recently cleared of a sexual harassment allegation, joins John McDonnell’s Treasury team.
Also promoted is Corbynista Laura Pidcock, attacked by Theresa May after declaring, on becoming an MP in June, that she could “never be friends with a Tory”. She will speak on employment.
Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis described both appointments as a ‘reward for abusive behaviour’.
Another Corbyn ally, Dan Carden, a former aide to Unite leader Ken McCluskey whose selection on Merseyside last year caused a huge row, becomes an international development spokesman.
Announcing 13 appointments, Mr Corbyn said: “I am pleased to make these appointments to strengthen Labour’s frontbench team, which is now a Government in waiting.
“I look forward to working with them in their new roles holding the Government to account, developing policy to transform our country and, with their shadow secretary of states, preparing to form a Government that will deliver for the many not the few.”
Mr Lewis, MP for Norwich South, was an early Corbynista. In less than three years as an MP he has had a colourful career since being appointed shadow defence secretary in 2016, after resignations by Corbyn critics.
At Labour’s 2016 conference he was involved in an extraordinary incident when his speech from the platform was altered while he was delivering it by Mr Corbyn’s controversial spin doctor Seamas Milne.
Months later, Mr Lewis quit after defying Mr Corbyn’s orders to Labour MPs to vote for Article 50 in the Commons. Then, at the 2017 conference, he told an activist: “Get on your knees, bitch!“
At the time, Labour MP Stella Creasy said: “It’s not okay. Even if it’s meant as a joke, reinforces menace that men have the physical power to force compliance.”
During the same conference, Mr Lewis was accused by a 39-year-old woman of groping her at a Momentum event. He denied the claim and was cleared after an inquiry last month.
Mr Corbyn had to make some changes after sacking left-wing ally Chris Williamson for calling for wealthy homeowners to have their council tax doubled. His job as fire spokesman goes to former nurse Karen Lee.
And veteran Jack Dromey, husband of Harriet Harman, replaces another Brexit rebel, Alex Cunningham, who quit as pensions spokesman last week after defying Mr Corbyn in a Commons vote on the customs union.
The Conservatives responded to Mr Corbyn’s reshuffle by claiming that in the same week that Mr Williamson was forced out for exposing the truth on Labour’s plans to hike taxes, he had promoted Clive Lewis, who he condemned for “completely unacceptable” behaviour, and Laura Pidcock, who described political opponents as “enemies”.
Party chairman Brandon Lewis added: “This reshuffle shows yet again that Labour will not just fail to confront abusive behaviour, but they will reward it.
“Clive Lewis and Laura Pidcock represent a nasty, regressive brand of politics which could not be further from Jeremy Corbyn’s laughable claims to represent a ‘kinder, gentler’ politics.
“It’s time for Labour MPs to speak up and condemn these appointments to ensure that all parties are united in working to stamp out abusive behaviour in public life.”
The full list of appointments, which includes sideways moves for a number of frontbenchers, is:
- Shadow minister for pensions – Jack Dromey MP
- Shadow minister for Labour – Laura Pidcock MP
- Shadow minister for planning – Roberta Blackman-Woods MP
- Shadow minister for social care and mental health – Paula Sherriff MP
- Shadow minister for buses – Matt Rodda MP
- Shadow minister for the treasury – Clive Lewis MP
- Shadow minister for the treasury – Lyn Brown MP
- Shadow minister for fire – Karen Lee MP
- Shadow minister for international trade – Judith Cummins MP
- Shadow minister for the cabinet office – Chris Matheson MP
- Shadow minister for the cabinet office – Laura Smith MP
- Shadow minister for international development – Dan Carden MP
- Shadow minister for international development – Preet Gill MP