UK Politics

Labour's Catherine McKinnell quits shadow cabinet

Catherine McKinnell
Image caption Ms McKinell said she was dismayed by the recent "internal conflict" in the party

Shadow attorney general Catherine McKinnell has resigned from the shadow cabinet, citing concerns over Labour's direction under Jeremy Corbyn.

Ms McKinnell said Labour was heading down an "increasingly negative path" amid "internal conflict" stemming from the recent shadow cabinet reshuffle.

The first shadow cabinet member to quit since Mr Corbyn's reshuffle also cited family reasons and a desire to speak in Parliament outside her legal brief.

She has been replaced by Karl Turner.

Mr Turner, the MP for Kingston upon Hull East, is the former shadow solicitor general.

Just hours before Ms McKinnell's resignation, Mr Corbyn claimed the party was "moving on" from the internal ructions of recent weeks.

Last week's reshuffle saw the exit of shadow Europe minister Pat McFadden and former shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher - two critics of the leader - and the demotion of shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle to culture spokeswoman. Three other shadow ministers resigned in protest at the changes.

In her resignation letter, Ms McKinnell said being in the shadow cabinet had prevented her from speaking up on issues of importance to her constituents and that she felt she could serve them better as a backbencher.

'Conflict'

The MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne North also said she was finding it more difficult to balance her professional and family commitments since the birth of her third child last year.

But she also expressed concerns about the "situation in which Labour now finds itself".

Image copyright Catherine McKinnell
Image caption Extracts from Catherine McKinnell's resignation letter

"As somebody who came into politics with the sole motivation of making life better for my city, my region and, by extension, the country as a whole, I recognised that our electoral defeats in both 2010 and 2015 demanded a genuine and profound response from the Labour Party," she wrote.

"I therefore shared your optimism for the 'new kind of politics' you spoke so compellingly about.

"However, as events have unfolded over recent weeks, my concern about the direction and internal conflict within the Labour party has only grown and I fear this is taking us down an increasingly negative path.

"I feel that I would like to channel my energy constructively, into making positive changes for my constituents."

Image caption Mr Corbyn says reshuffles are "never easy" but the changes have made his top team stronger

Speaking on the BBC earlier, Mr Corbyn defended the changes he had made to the shadow cabinet, saying they had brought more "diversity" into his top team and he was "happy" with the new line-up.

"We have a team which is strong," he told Radio 4's Today.

"We have widened the shadow cabinet to represent the diversity of the country and the membership of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

"I am happy with it. We are moving on."

'Flashpoint'

But the BBC's Carole Walker said the latest resignation underlined the difficulties Mr Corbyn was having in moulding a shadow cabinet in his own image and reconciling the difficulties that existed in the Labour party.

Reacting to her departure, shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer told the Daily Politics that Ms McKinnell had been an "incredibly effective" performer in her post and that she would be a loss to the shadow cabinet.

He said while it was inevitable that reshuffles were a "flashpoint for differences", the party had to pull together and move on.

Shadow Treasury minister Richard Burgon said the "vast majority of Labour MPs agree on the vast majority of things".

Ms McKinell has held a number of frontbench positions since entering Parliament at the 2010 election. As shadow attorney general, she was responsible for providing legal office to Mr Corbyn and senior colleagues.

MPs meet

In another development, Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff has resigned as a ministerial aide to shadow communities secretary John Trickett.

She tweeted that she had stepped down to campaign against "Tory cuts" and to focus on her work on the health select committee.

Mr Corbyn was not present as Labour MPs gathered for the first time since the reshuffle on Monday evening.

Labour's general secretary, Iain McNicol, told the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting any change to the way the party makes policy would have to be agreed at its annual conference.

It follows Mr Corbyn's expressed desire to involve the wider party membership in policy-making.

Trident warning

At the next meeting, MPs are to put forward a motion that would remove his aide from the party's ruling National Executive Committee.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said some Labour MPs were unhappy at the position on the NEC - usually reserved for a backbench MP - being held by someone in Mr Corbyn's team.

If the motion is successful, the aide in question - Mr Corbyn's Parliamentary Private Secretary Steve Rotheram - would have to resign.

The motion says: "Rotheram is well liked, but removing him would free up a space on the committee, and his replacement would be chosen by a vote of Labour MPs, rather than the leader's office."

The Labour leader is hoping to change his party's policy on one of the issues on which it is divided, the renewal of the UK's nuclear weapons system.

But there was a warning for his anti-Trident stance from Paul Kenny, of the GMB union, who said he would be asking tens of thousands of workers "what they think about the Labour Party effectively shutting down their jobs".

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One unions would not go "quietly into the night" if the policy was changed.

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