Labour's shadow cabinet: Eavesdropping on the ins and outs

image copyrightReuters
image captionAs night fell over Westminster, Labour's new leader was settling in for hours of negotiations

As Jeremy Corbyn and his aides conducted delicate negotiations over the new shadow cabinet in a room at the Palace of Westminster, BBC political correspondent Eleanor Garnier waited in a corridor outside, overhearing conversations that would shape the futures of both MPs and the Labour Party.

Who was in, who was out, who could be persuaded and who couldn't?

We heard Andy Burnham had been in for a chat, Lord Falconer had emerged smiling but tight lipped, David Lammy had been spotted but later, laughing, he told me he had no idea his party's leader was hunkered down in the Commons, painstakingly putting his top team in place.

Tucked inside the Opposition Whips' Office, Jeremy Corbyn and his chief whip Rosie Winterton plus Simon Fletcher, his campaign director, were locked in meeting after meeting, phone call after phone call.

Outside in the members' lobby Thatcher was pointing, Churchill had his hands on his hips and I sat on the cold floor, colleagues from Sky and the New Statesman nearby, all of us at the ready.

Batteries fading, our phones plugged into the few sockets we could find, we swapped intel and took it in turns to catch glimpses of not very quiet conversations.

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image captionJeremy Corbyn, seen the morning after the night before, when his shadow cabinet took shape

"I've got a defence problem," we heard Rosie Winterton admit to someone on the phone. They'd offered it to Chris Bryant and "Jeremy was up for it", but then Chris wanted "a half hour conversation about what would happen if we had to invade Russia".

The deal fell down. But "Jack Dromey could be good at defence" and then after a moment's silence… it was "the defence of the realm after all".

Occasionally Jeremy would make an appearance, a quick trip to the loo. "Any progress," we asked, "how's it going?" we questioned.

"All wonderful, everything is just wonderful," he replied. While he kept shtum, Rosie Winterton let more developments slip out into the corridor - her voice, at times, clearly audible.

"I know this might be a bit of an outside shot… how do you feel about being defence secretary… well, what are your views on Trident… … … are you willing to engage in a debate?"

Defence was clearly proving to be a problem.

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image captionLabour's new team was put together behind a door in the Commons (...but not this actual door)

Then a flurry of activity, a door creaking at the end of the corridor and a quick dash to see if Team Corbyn was on the move.

Holding my breath, in the distance two shadowy figures glided away from Central Lobby towards the Lords. They were chatting loudly - it wasn't Labour's new leader, and we were back to our listening posts.

Doors were being checked and locked, security were doing the rounds - "You still working here?" they asked. The huge Palace of Westminster was getting darker and the job of fixing his team felt a long way off for Jeremy Corbyn.

But eventually names were revealed. It was getting close to 10pm, big deadlines were looming, BBC outlets wanted lives with me and the story needed to be written.

"Andy is in, Hilary is in, Angela is in," we heard. But Labour MPs weren't happy, complaints were already coming in.

image copyrightLabour Party
image captionRosie Winterton played a key role in helping form Labour's new political team

With John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, the top posts taken by men, one backbencher tweeted "Labour needed to be better than this," while another called the appointments "a disgrace".

Then, close to midnight, a new voice, we thought it could be Simon Fletcher: "We're taking a fair amount of shit out there about women… let's make Angela… shadow first minister of State, like Mandelson, she can do PMQs… do the Angela bit now."

Then, as if on cue, a text from a Labour source: "Angela Eagle will be shadow First Secretary of State as well as Shadow Secretary for BIS. She will deputise for Jeremy Corbyn in PMQs when David Cameron is away."

image copyrightPA
image captionDavid Cameron will be seeing fresh faces opposite him during Prime Minister's Questions

My colleague at Sky had been working since 5am, I don't think he'd eaten all day. We were fading and so it seemed was Jeremy, who we'd just spotted sporting a coat.

They were, we thought, still in the office, but realising it was too quiet we started heading for the exit, down narrow staircases, along winding corridors. Then, voices around the corner - it was Rosie.

"We're going home," she said. Off home from Westminster in her car but Jeremy was on foot, flanked by a posse of advisers.

With just my phone for recording we tried to ask question after question. Nothing, no response, just a march to a waiting car - and the end of a very long night.

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